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Teacher of the Week

On a daily basis, I am blown away by the work of educators the world over. Not only am I lucky enough to have crossed paths with inspirational teachers throughout my life but many of you share your stories of incredible people you’ve had the joy of encountering – people who are changing the world one student at a time. Every Thursday, I will share a new “Teacher of the Week” and invite you to submit your nominations.

Your Nominations

Shirley Wilson

Despite the low funding that the school provides for choir, she goes out of her way to make sure our choir is able to participate in any given event. Sometimes even out of pocket, she never gives up on us and motivates us to reach for the stars. She’s the reason myself and many others have chosen music as our major.

Chris Maunu

Mr Maunu influences his students to practice not only music but also real life. He also teaches us not to be afraid to cry or be emotional with one another. He preaches that music is lifeless without involving real life emotions and events.

Ryan Ellis

Mr. Ellis was the most funnest, craziest, sincere, and most inspirational choir teacher I’ve ever had. His intense passion for music made all his students motivated to make sure they practice and work as a team. If there was ever a time where the students did not understand a subject, he would adapt to each student so everyone was on the same page. Mr. Ellis constantly challenged his students because he knew their potential and talent, which is why he always gets Superiors in all his competitions. He should be nominated because no matter what is happening in his or his students life, his positive attitude and great teaching methods makes him one of the best educators I’ve ever seen.

Stephanie Schumacher

Mrs. Schumacher is quite possibly one of the most personable, honest, and caring educators that I have had the pleasure to be in class with. She consistently pushed me to give all that I do my best, not just with music but all aspects of my life. I am lucky to have been taught by her, and I have developed my passion for music from her devotion. Mrs. Schumacher is a great teacher and deserves recognition!

Kelly Mielcarz

She is truly an inspiration and always there to help you grow as a musician and a person. She is so kind and enthusiastic, and has faith in all of her students even when they don’t see it themselves, and she’s a loving mother to all. Mrs. Mielcarz has helped me through really difficult times in my life, and I’m forever thankful for her.

William Klein

Mr. Klein always works his hardest from the second he walks into the school until he walks out 8 hours later and even then it doesn’t stop there he also score studies daily and still finds time to take college classes to get his doctorate. He teaches all the choirs about music but he teaches us so much like how to be a leader and how to be responsible. Most of all he has created a safe space for everyone that is drama free and is always positive and a family atmosphere with people you didn’t even know at the beginning of the year.

Rachel Glenister

She is always happy and welcoming in her classes! She picks great music and always finds ways to engage us. We can talk to her and trust her like a friend. She’s a wonderful person!

Erin Goeke

Erin Goeke (Go-Kee) is the choir director at Durham Middle School in Lewisville, Texas.  Erin graduated from Sam Houston State University with a degree in Music Therapy.  She obtained her certification as a music therapist, but then quickly decided that she could make a bigger impact by becoming a music teacher.  She’s just starting her fourth year at Durham and was honored as Teacher of the Year last year.  How she handles 200+ 6th, 7th and 8th graders every day is a mystery to me, but I suspect she uses her music therapy skills to keep everybody balanced.  This year she introduced a new after school program called “Karaoke with Goeke” which was a big hit!  I know her students mean the world to Erin and she means the world to me.  In her “spare time,” Erin joined a Sweet Adelines chorus called the Rich-Tones and we will be competing at the International contest in St. Louis in October.

Janise Coon

Mrs Coon has been my teacher for 3 years, but she’s been teaching and singing for longer than I’ve been alive. She manages to bring fun into even the most boring songs and makes the hour a day I spend in her class my favorite. Her tireless efforts to make the Chico High choir the best it can be and the love she gives to each and every student makes her not only the best teacher here, but my personal role model.

Hope Watts

I am nominating my band teacher, Hope Watts, because she is a constant inspiration for every student she teaches. I also give her props for having to deal with all the drama of high school AND middle school students. She inspired me to become a band teacher. These are some of the reasons why I think Hope Watts is the perfect candidate for teacher of the week.

Amanda Ransom

Amanda has been teaching at the same middle school for her entire decade long career and has grown the program to pushing 400 kids. Many of her students have gone on to be musicians and teachers themselves. This year her Varsity Treble Choir was selected to perform at the 60th National ACDA Conference, the first middle choir in her district’s history. She also has poured into several new teachers over the years when they are her assistant and then move in to run their own programs. More than anything, her students mean everything to her and all she wants is to see them learn to love music. She is the best teacher I know.

Cami Clausen

Mrs. Clausen always sees the potential in all of her students and wants to do everything she can to help them succeed. She provides them with many opportunities that will help them grow. Not only is she a great teacher, but she’s also a great role model and inspiration.

Dr Russell W Hoffmann

Russell just retired in June from the Princeton Public School System, 36 years there at JW Middle School and 41-1/2 years all together – but still teaches four nights and Saturdays in Flemington, NJ. His students love him and many will have a different teacher but transfer to him. He teaches violin, viola and cello. Plus he has an orchestra that he founded with two friends – Newtown Chamber Orchestra in Newtown, PA starting its 29th Season this fall. He works so hard to bring music to the community and to children – he should qualify for a ‘Teacher of the Week’.

Russ Christensen

Russ Christensen is the former choir director of the Grammy-Award winning chamber choir at Sprague High School in Salem, Oregon and current director of Oregon State University’s award-winning Meistersingers. He has upheld a tradition of excellence, musicality and poise throughout his career. His ability to direct over 100 students at a time in beautiful order and unison is that of master status. Though he holds his choirs to high standards, he’s able to keep great rapport with his peers and the singers he directs. He’s mastered the ability to keep students engaged, comfortable and motivated toward excellence.

Dr. Angela Broeker

Dr. Broeker is the most loving and generous human being and an incredible Choral music educator. She teaches with such kindness, empathy and grace and is an inspiration to all of the students she comes into contact with. After two weeks of graduate conducting this summer, she gently reminded our class “You are enough. As you already are, you are enough.” Her belief in each of her students is so encouraging…and she is a brilliant musician to boot!

Patrick Newcomb

This man has created such a loving environment in our choir deparentment and strives not for perfection, but for us as singers to enjoy ourselves and the music. He genuinely wants us to thrive and enjoy the ride along the way. I’ve never met a more generous and caring man who thoroughly cares for their students. He’s been such a big father figure in my life and loves unconditionally to all his students.

Dr. Andrew Robinette

Dr. Robinette is without a doubt, one of the greatest teachers I have ever had the fortune to study under. Not only is he genuine, but he deeply cares about his job and the students he teaches. Andrew has inspired countless students in the field of Music Education and it is because of him that he inspired me to become a teacher like him and better me as a person. I owe everything to him as he has saved my life in more ways then one.

Nicole Snodgrass

Mrs Snodgrass has given me so many opportunities to thrive in my choir. We have been able to sing in such places as Carnegie Hall and The White House. This is all due to her tireless work. Her classroom environment is a safe place for all, and her teaching is amazing. She does so much for all of her students. She really goes above and beyond. Mrs Snodgrass truly loves all of her students like a mother.

Adam Bendorf

He brings true musicality to any piece he presents to the choir. They look challenging in regards to language or rhythm but on his off time, he’s in his office, conducting and practicing for our next rehearsal. I will forever be moved at the simple gesture of watching my teacher love what he does in the classroom and be prepared for any questions or trouble areas. His humor and awkwardness helped the process of teaching and creating an unbreakable bond between him, the students, and the piece.

Laura Morris

Mrs. Morris is more than just a teacher to a lot of us. She’s a mom. We have a wonderful choir full of talented kids but we all agree that the reason we sing is because of Morris. Even after having a baby of her own she still manages to be there for us whenever we need her. She makes us all the best version of ourselves.

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Nominate a Teacher

All Honorees

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold

Prof. Klaus-Jürgen Etzold

This man is a force of nature. Based in Hannover, he has been involved in music at almost every level in Germany, in the classroom, on the stage, on committees, educating and creating new ensembles, taking them far and wide sharing culture and passion for music. His effusive charm sits alongside a determination to see each individual fulfil their dreams and potential.

Klaus-Jürgen, I thank you

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban (U.S.A.)

Adam Orban or “Master Orbiwan” as we called him (if you’re a Star Wars fan you’ll get it,) was my high school choir teacher and has been one of the most influential people in my life and countless others. He taught me in chorus and music theory from 7th Grade through high school. I owe him an incredible gratitude for being one of the people to understand me for who I was and who broke my shell wide open and forced me to do things out of my comfort zone. He saw an awkward, shy 7th grader who wouldn’t speak up in class even if called on, and saw potential in him. His passion for choral music was also contagious. In his time in Sheldon, IA, he took our small choral program to unimaginable heights. At the height of the program, the jazz and show choirs got consistent 1st places and the concert choir was getting straight perfect scores at state contest. I am proud to say I am now a choral director myself and get to call him a colleague and a friend. He truly changed my life.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Adam.

Thank you Jacob for the nomination.

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

Paul Phoenix (U.K.)

This man gave me a most precious gift. He helped me to rebuild my confidence and positivity which means more than I can say. He helped to change the colour and horizon of my world, both for my life and career. He let me know I am stronger than I can imagine. He generously shared his wisdoms and talents with great sense of humour and genuinely engaged the world through his golden voice and his golden heart. He inspired many people to become ‘a better version of themselves’. I will try to pass things I learned from him on to my students as well. Heartfelt thanks to Paul Phoenix – former King’s Singer and now Purple Vocals. You are an incredible man.

With thanks to Mingxia Xiao in Tianjin for the nomination.

Thank you, Paul, for changing the world one student at a time.

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

Claudio Silvestri (Italy)

“Everyone is able to sing, there aren’t out of tune people”. – Claudio Silvestri

It’s been a privilege to read the stories of all those who contributed to nominated Maestro Silvestri.

Thank you, Claudio, for changing the world one student at a time.

Russ Otte (U.S.A.)

Thank you to Peter Hollens for nominating his high school choir teacher, Russ Otte.

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

Amanda Hanzlik (U.S.A.)

With an incredible 9 nominations received this week, Amanda Hanzlik – you are our Teacher of the Week.

Thank you for changing the world, one student at a time.

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

Gary Langford (U.S.A.)

For more than 40 years Gary Langford has dedicated his life to music and music education. He was my trumpet and jazz professor when I was a freshman at the University of Florida and through the years he has given so much to so many, in music and just by being a wonderful mentor and human. It was Gary’s honesty that convinced me to change my major from trumpet performance to journalism, and he always was straightforward and kind in his feedback and advice. I went on to have a successful 30-year career as a journalist but never stopped playing or loving the trumpet, jazz and music because of Gary’s undying enthusiasm and spirit. Ask anyone who has met him and they will say the same. Gary is an inspiration to all.

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi (U.S.A.)

Steve Durtschi is one of the hardest working teachers I have ever had the pleasure of working with. His dedication to his students and the art of Choral conducting is unparalleled. During my time working with Steve Durtschi I learned so much about musicality and appreciation for the benefit of hard work. Steve Durtschi has been teaching all Choral and AP Music Theory classes at Timpanogos High School since 2010. During his time there his choirs have achieved the highest ranks possible at festivals they’ve participated in.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Steve.

Thank you Kris for the nomination.

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

Michelle Shmuel (U.S.A.)

While Michelle is clearly an outstanding professional, mentor, musician and teacher, I believe she should be viewed foremost as an outstanding leader. After years of setting the standard as a “young” teacher, Michelle has now transitioned to a “seasoned veteran” who leads by example on a daily basis for not only her students but co-workers as well. Michelle’s unwavering approach to her daily tasks as an educator is a beacon of professionalism for all to see. She truly displays the philosophy that she is teaching young adults how to be better human beings through singing, as opposed to simply becoming a good musician. She runs three choirs, as well as numerous smaller chamber groups with over 200 students enrolled. It does not matter what level of performer you are, if you are willing to put the work in, she is willing to give her time to teach you. Truly inspirational!

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Michelle.

Thank you Chad for the nomination.

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

Emmanuella Mazile (U.S.A.)

Emmanuella Mazile teaches choir at Lowell Scott Middle School. She’s only in her second year of teaching and has already made such a difference in their music program and in the lives of her students. Her kids come to class excited to learn because she engages them with respect, humor, and love. They’re not just learning songs in Miss Mazile’s class; they’re learning how to be musicians. Parents, teachers, and students alike recognize how beautifully–and quickly–she’s transformed an “easy A” choir class into a high-quality music education. Emmanuella is an incredible, natural teacher and advocate for kids who are often navigating a tumultuous period of their lives. I met Emmanuella in college while we were both studying music. I’m so immensely proud of her and thankful to call her my best friend; she’s a daily source of inspiration for me and I’m absolutely thrilled for all of the students in the years to come who will get to learn music from Miss Mazile.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Emmanuella.

Thank you Aubrey for the nomination.

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

Richard Medrano (U.S.A.)

With his open heart and musicality, Rich has given back to the community. He conducts with the City of Angels Community Choirs in Granada Hills, CA. This community choir includes the Master Chorale, as well as Children’s Choir. His empathy and open arms invite you to join not only a group of singers, but a family – a humble family that creates wonderful music for the community. Rich has given the choir the opportunity to go Christmas caroling at a local hospital each year in December. He has also dedicated a concert for the children and has raised money for children’s scholarships. Rich has dedicated engraved hand bells of those who lost their lives in Sandy Hook.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Richard.

Thank you April for the nomination.

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena Graham (U.S.A.)

Sheena is an outstanding choral educator, who’s breathed new life and meaning to students in Bridgeport CT’s inner city high school. After years of budget cuts, music is back: “On Friday mornings, students are serenaded by musical performances as they cue up to go through metal detectors. As people are coming in, security guards are bopping to the music as they check bags.” Sheena has just been awarded Connecticut Teacher of the Year for 2019.

Thank you, Sheena, for changing the world one student at a time.

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox (U.S.A.)

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox (U.S.A.)

Mrs. Ruby Robertson-Knox, Music Director at Oak Knoll School, has been a part of the music world from her childhood, later studying at Baylor U, and teaching for 40+ years. She fosters a special choral community of singers from grades 7-12, a drama troop, full musical, masses, and two chamber choirs. Service is also one of the biggest aspects of OKS and Ms. Knox’s philosophy. Ms. Knox teaches us to be grateful for our school, one another, and music. She is passionate for the arts and knows the powers of choral music to heal and make community. Music brings her happiness and joy, thus bringing it to students. She aims to better us and implores students, who she calls her children, to be passionate about their dreams. Ms. Knox’s talents are countless: a stunning singer, pianist, and conductor who conducts from the piano bench, never missing a cue while playing beautifully. She is there for all of us. Her light is felt by all. “Ruby” is truly a valuable gem and shining star.

Thank you Ruby, for changing the world one student at a time.

Janwin Overstreet-Goode (U.S.A.)

Janwin Overstreet-Goode (U.S.A.)

I met Janwin at TMEA earlier this year and was blown away by the connection that she had with so many former-students across the time we spent together. It’s not a surprise that she’s been honored with the FISD “Making a Difference” Award and the Outstanding Music Educator Award from the Houston Symphony Orchestra.

Janwin – thank you for changing the world, one student at a time.

Dr. Robert Spence (U.S.A.)

Dr. Robert Spence (U.S.A.)

Dr. Spence is an associate professor of music at Elizabethtown College, as well as the director of instrumental studies. He conducts the Symphonic Band and the College-Community Orchestra. In 2017, he was awarded the Kreider Teaching Prize, which is given annually to an outstanding educator at the college. I had Dr. Spence in class during every semester of my college career. He is the prime example of a deeply caring and passionate educator. During his classes, his manner of speaking creates the feeling that he is speaking to each student individually, rather than addressing the group as a whole. He can often be found in his office, essentially giving private lessons to students from his instrumental methods classes. And to top it off, his dry humor is unmatched. Perhaps my favorite memory is his recent comment on my Facebook post, informing friends and family that I accepted a full-time teaching job: “Thank you for your contributions to my future Social Security checks…”

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Robert.

Thank you Abby for the nomination.

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

Sandra Chandler (U.S.A.)

I would love to recommend Ms. Sandra Chandler, choral teacher and director at Alexander High School, Douglasville, Georgia for this honor. She is a splendid teacher, award winning in her district, and greatly loved by her students. She is a prime example of what ACDA stands for.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Sandra.

Thank you Tim Sharp, Executive Director of ACDA, for the nomination.

Dr. Charissa Chiaravalloti (U.S.A.)

Dr. Charissa Chiaravalloti (U.S.A.)

Dr. Chiaravalloti is the Director of Choral Activities at Fort Lewis College in Durango, CO. Dr. C, as we call her, is one of those teachers that changes your life. She’s the standard by which you hold all other teachers, even though you know you’re never going to have a director quite like her again. She loves and cherishes music, but she loves and values her students even more. Dr. C supports each and every one of her students, and helps us to grow not only as musicians, but as confident, competent human beings. No teacher has ever changed my life quite the way Dr. C has.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Charissa.

Thank you Allie for the nomination.

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

Gregg Breinberg (U.S.A.)

It was my honor to meet and work with Gregg Breinberg “Mr. B” and the incredible choir, PS22, (from Public School 22, Graniteville, Staten Island, New York) in 2000. Their continued success must surely come from Gregg’s vision, integrity, passion and dedication to young people and music. Each year he auditions children from 10 years old to join PS22 from the school’s wide cross-section of ethnic groups and socio-economic levels, encouraging them to sing as one and express themselves through music. The emotion is palpable, both listening to them and watching them. Mr. B and PS22 have had truly massive success on YouTube, appeared at the Oscars, the White House, on the Oprah Winfrey Show and with Katy Perry and more. Crucially, this team of engaging super-talented young people rehearse twice a week in term-time and sing at school and local events. Mr. B, you are an incredible force for good in an area that continues to face huge challenges.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Gregg.

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr (South Africa)

George Hattingh Jr has been a big part in making the dreams of thousands of aspiring sound engineers, including myself, come to life. He is a lecturer and a director at the Academy of Sound Engineering in Auckland Park, South Africa. He is a mentor to me and one of my biggest role models.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you George.

Thank you Ethan for the nomination.

Mr. Chris Wing (U.S.A.)

Mr. Chris Wing (U.S.A.)

As the band director and head of the music department at Greenfield-Central High School, Mr. Wing built a phenomenal marching band and a spectacular concert band program from the ground up. Starting with a horn line that totaled fewer members than the current woodwind section, he pushed through adversity, giving every member the knowledge they needed to thrive, and continues to strive, not for trophies or medals, but for improvement and exceptional performance individually and as a group. He will be the first to admit that if there are points available, he wants them all. However, his desire for the Greenfield-Central Cougar Pride Marching Band to be the best it possibly can overrides his competitive nature, and he implores us to focus on how we improved over how we placed.

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Chris.

Thank you Elysabeth for the nomination.

Dr. Angela Broeker (U.S.A.)

Dr. Angela Broeker (U.S.A.)

Dr. Broeker is the most loving and generous human being and an incredible Choral music educator. She teaches with such kindness, empathy and grace and is an inspiration to all of the students she comes into contact with. After two weeks of graduate conducting this summer, she gently reminded our class “You are enough. As you already are, you are enough.” Her belief in each of her students is so encouraging…and she is a brilliant musician to boot!

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Angela.

Thank you Coleen for the nomination.

Dr. Cara Tasher (U.S.A.)

Dr. Cara Tasher (U.S.A.)

Dr. Cara Tasher, the brilliant Director of Choral Studies at the University of North Florida, has a tradition with her choir called “hot seat.” (That’s Dr. Tasher in the photo, second from left). She and her singers sit in a large circle surrounding a single empty chair. One by one a student comes to the center of the circle, sits down, and closes their eyes. As soon as they sit the people surrounding them gently bombard them with positive adjectives about their character. “Funny.” “Gracious.” “Generous.” “Confident.” “Beautiful.”

The person in the center can’t go anywhere – they must sit and listen to their friends and colleagues sending wave after wave of positive, specific reinforcement describing who they are and what they mean to the tribe. The overall effect was gorgeous, uplifting and deeply human, and as I tearfully told them afterwards in the middle of a big group hug, “This is the most choir thing EVER.”

Changing the world one student at a time – thank you Cara.