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Middle School Central 2024 Teacher of the Year

41 Years of Teaching; 23 Years at Center Grove 



When I started teaching 41 years ago, I wanted to be the best high school choir director I could be. I wanted to develop a choral program of excellence with choirs that could sing any style well and be recognized at the state level and beyond. It took less than a month for me to realize that this was not my true mission. Students needed so much more than an excellent choral experience. I saw my students struggling with emotional issues, family trauma, identity questions, character issues and so much more. My true mission was to help them navigate this formative and fragile time in their life to help them first of all survive, secondly become comfortable with who they are, and thirdly become good humans with excellent character who will contribute to the community in which they live.

I realized quickly that students wanted to be part of excellence (no one wants to play for a losing team), so I dedicated myself to becoming an excellent choral director with very high expectations for my students. This excellence attracted more and more students to the choirs. I also realized quickly that students need a strong connection with an adult. Within my classroom, I have created a safe environment where students can be themselves and try hard at something they love with no judgment. My students also are challenged daily with talks about responsibility, hard work, acceptance, loving themselves, and being the best humans they can be.

I started seeing so many young people come into my classroom that had a deep desire to belong to something... anything; or that didn’t feel like they fit in anywhere. Helping the underserved became a passion for me. Students know when they come into my classroom that they will be treated with respect, kindness, and most of all, acceptance. They know that I try every day to create an atmosphere where all students are respected and accepted no matter their ethnicity, religious belief, socio-economic status, whether they are on the Autism spectrum, have a 504 plan, or are part of the LGBTQ+ community. My classroom is where they not only feel accepted, but are seen and feel safe, which are two things that every student in school is looking for. They want not only physical safety, but a safe place to be who they are. And they want someone, anyone to see them - to see past the masks that they put up out of necessity, and to see over the walls that they build higher and higher every day. They desperately need someone to see them for who they really are, and to let them know they are loved and they are enough. This is what I try to bring into my classroom every day. So many students walk around the school paralyzed, and if I can give them 45 minutes a day of safety, then I feel like I have made the most important impact that a human can make for another human.

So for 41 years I have been doing everything I can to be a positive force in the lives of thousands of students, showing them unconditional love mixed with high expectations. So, why is teaching important? I guess to me, important isn’t a strong enough word. Imperative is the word I would choose. Creating excellence and making sure my students learn something every day is imperative. Having fun in the classroom every day is imperative. Challenging students to be the best humans they can be every day is imperative. Letting students know that they are seen, they are loved, they are beautiful and they have worth every day is imperative. Teaching is about so much more than the subject matter. Teaching is about these wonderful, beautiful, fragile, damaged young people that come into our classrooms everyday wanting to be seen and loved. This is why I do what I do. This is why I’m still doing this after 41 years. This is why I can’t imagine not doing this. This is why I sign every email with the following quote attributed to Isadora Duncan: 

"Once you are interested in shaping children's lives, you will never be interested in anything else again. There is nothing greater!"  

There truly is nothing greater.