While I hope most teachers feel appreciated every day of the year, there’s nothing like a “holiday” to make us really think about why we appreciate someone. With this week being Teacher Appreciation Week I have been doing a lot of thinking about teachers in my life who have given so selflessly to their profession and have had a true passion for educating their students. I have been blessed with having so many remarkable teachers and mentors throughout my life. Grade school through college there have been several teachers who left their mark, but the one who I really want to thank today is my music teacher.
I went to a fairly small school, where my music teacher was with me from Kindergarten until I graduated High School. Thirteen years certainly helped grow a relationship with my teacher, Ms. O’Neil, but even if she had only been my teacher for one year I know she would have made an impact. Through the help of my music teacher, I realized my passion for music at a very young age. Her enthusiasm for music, and her confidence in me as a performer really shaped the way I viewed myself as a child. Throughout school I ALWAYS had a place where I felt I belonged and that was in music class, and then once I hit Junior High, in the choir room.
Ms. O’Neil gave (and is still giving at Yale Public Schools in Yale, Michigan) so tiresly to her students. I will never forget each year hearing about the choir seniors graduating and Ms. O’Neil sharing a beautiful inspiring story with that particular class and giving them a pearl and telling them how unique and special they were. Every year I watched that beautiful end of the year “ceremony” and I couldn’t wait until I was a senior. And then that moment came.. and I was sitting in first hour choir, in a circle of the other Senior choir students and Ms. O’Neil and she told the story yet again that was so familiar to me.
It was the story about the man walking along the sand, and trying so hard to throw each starfish he came across that had washed up to the shore back into the ocean. Another man walks up to him and says, what are you doing? There are so many and you can’t possibly throw each one back in, you will never make a difference. But the man keeps going, and throws yet another starfish back in and says “it made a difference to that one.”
That story that Ms. O’Neil told every year really epitomises to me what she was always all about…and what so many teachers live for. She worked so hard all of the time, because she knew, even if it was just one student at a time…she could make a difference.
Well, I’m fairly certain that Ms. O’Neil has made a difference in so many lives of the students she has taught..not only teaching them about music, but helping each one of us to be a better person. I know I AM a better person from having known her. Ms. O’Neil if you are reading this, I still have and cherish that pearl you gave me on my last day in your class, and the last time I was home, I saw that my brother, who had graduated four years before me, still had his. Thank you for inspiring my passion for music…and for teaching me that I can make a difference, and even if it’s just one starfish… I made a difference for that one.
Yesterday when I was thinking about writing this blog and sharing MY story about the special teacher in my life, I knew that there had to be others in the Music for All office who also had stories of teachers who inspired them. I was so happy to read about so many more amazing stories about inspiring teachers that I just had to share those as well.
“Mr. Philip Shepherd was my high school band director (1977-81). I went to an average sized high school (about 1,000 9-12, I think), in a smallish town (about 7,000) in Eastern Kentucky. What is amazing to me looking back is that he instilled in us not just a belief that we could accomplish anything but a real sense of connection at the deepest level to the music and to the highest level of music-making. He had high expectations and it never occurred to us that we weren’t going to meet those expectations. I follow the careers of my fellow band mates from that time and see that they are contributing at the highest levels in their chosen professions and I have no doubt that part of that is due to having the privilege of being a student of Mr. Shepherd.”
– Debbie Laferty-Asbill, Vice President of Marketing and Communications
“Though I have had the pleasure of learning from and working with many remarkable educators in my lifetime, I’d specifically like to celebrate my high school band directors, Mr. Charles M. Smith and Dr. Terry Magee. They are both selfless advocates of music education in our schools and deserve consistent recognition for their commitment to excellence. The time I spent as a student at Lafayette H.S. in Lexington, KY under their direction had a huge impact on who I am as a leader and professional today. I know that I am not the first or last person to acknowledge their efforts and want to personally thank them for being such valuable assets to the ‘Pride of the Bluegrass!'”
– Molly Miller, Event Coordinator
“Even after many years of education and hundreds of teachers, the most impactful remains my elementary music teacher, Mrs. Mason. After looking forward to music class each week in third grade, I was entranced by Mrs. Mason’s piano playing and begged my parents to buy a piano. Mrs. Mason’s passion for music was contagious, and after starting lessons, I was hooked. Her compassion for students and high standards of success both propelled my interest in music and improved my work ethic in subjects beyond music. After succumbing to cancer while I was in high school, her legacy of inspiring young students through music for over 40 years solidified my belief in music education and music in our schools. Because music remains a cornerstone of who I am, Mrs. Mason’s legacy lives on.“
– Seth Williams, Development Coordinator
“I am blessed to have crossed paths with a number of amazing, inspiring educators, from a cross country coach who kindled my love for my sport and a physics teacher whose “Socratic Method” of teaching helped me discover how much of an investigative thinker I am at heart, to a college professor who taught me as much about broadcast media as he did about persevering through life’s challenges through faith. It certainly takes a special kind of heart to fill the role of a teacher, and I feel so thankful for all the people in our nation who double as amazing educators and amazing human beings.
Undoubtedly, I wouldn’t be the same person I am today if it wasn’t for a certain color guard instructor of mine. When I met him, I felt like a very little person trying to break into the very big world of drum corps. Under his leadership, I learned how to focus my energy, refine my skills, and after five spectacular seasons have blossomed into an extremely confident performer and person. What impacted me the most is that he continually challenged me to challenge myself, showing he was confident in me and my talents and never letting me think otherwise. It really is true that when you hold someone to higher standards, they WILL go beyond their original expectations of themselves to achieve them. A heartfelt thanks to Ryan Miller, as well as to all our other teachers who set out on a daily basis to change the lives of students!“
– Carolyn Tobin, Marketing Intern
“Thank you Frank Herzog! My 8th grade history teacher who inspired and rewarded intellectual curiosity. The quote posted on our classroom wall: “in this room, ignorance is not bliss” “
– Nancy Carlson, Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer
For every story of an inspiring teacher we have here in the Music for All office, we know there are millions more out there in the world. So share it with us. Çomment with a story here on this post. Tell us about it on Facebook or Twitter. Send that amazing teacher a note, to tell them just how much they meant to you. Spend a few minutes thinking about what an incredible job they did. Just celebrate these wonderful teachers in some way.
To all of the teachers who personally touched MY life. Thank you.
To all of the teachers who touched the lives of my coworkers and made them the extraordinary people they are today. Thank you.
To all of the very special band and orchestra directors I have had the pleasure of getting to know through my work at Music for All. Thank you.
To all of the music teachers of all of the students our organization has ever touched. Thank you.
And to all teachers out there in the world, the ones I know and the ones I don’t have the pleasure of knowing: Music, Math, Science, English, History, Art, Health, Physical Education, Technology… no matter what you teach, you are appreciated. Thank you for sharing your passion and for being there each day for your students.
Thank you, from the bottoms of our hearts, for giving all that you can to your students, for working late, for spending your extra money on something for your classroom because your school budget doesn’t cover it, for being someone your students can talk to, rely on and learn from. You really do make a difference. You really do shape and mold young people to be the best they can possibly be.
Happy Teacher Appreciation Week.
Erin Fortune is the Marketing Coordinator at Music for All, and has been working with Music for All for nearly three years, first in the Participant Relations department and now in marketing. She is a graduate from the Music Industry Management program at Ferris State University in Michigan and is a former Percussive Arts Society Intern and a Yamaha Corporation of America, Band and Orchestral Division Intern.