Local music teacher wins Yale award

Posted: Sunday, May 31, 2009

After talking with Glacier Valley Elementary School music teacher Lorrie Heagy, it's easy to see why she was chosen as one of this year's recipients of the Distinguished Music Educator Award.

Courtesy Of Lorrie Heagy
Courtesy Of Lorrie Heagy

The Yale School of Music award honors teachers for their outstanding work in bringing music into the classroom.

Heagy started as a classroom teacher where her goal was "using the arts as a way to help make connections for kids with the contents they are learning in the classroom," she said. Heagy decided to become a music teacher at Glacier Valley Elementary School to reach a larger group of students and integrate the arts throughout the school.

To accomplish this goal, Heagy started a local Art is Elementary program, based off the same program in the Minneapolis School District. The program brought in "community artists (to) work with the classroom teacher on creating lessons where the arts helped teach the content," Heagy said. "So the teacher and the artist came together."

The Minneapolis program enjoyed great success with student improvements in the academic arena as well as with behavioral problems and relationships.

However, the Minneapolis program operated off a grant. Heagy's version offered sponsorships to local businesses.

"Businesses could donate $500 to sponsor a class for art and that sponsorship would make sure that that one classroom would have a weekly arts-integration lesson for the entire year," Heagy said. "And I was so amazed at how quickly businesses wanted to be a part of this program. And so I think the first year we had 24 businesses and then the next year it doubled to 50 sponsors and co-sponsors."

One of the major purposes of Art is Elementary is to provide data showing the arts not only motivate students but can affect a school culture and students approach to their academics for the School Board.

And it's done just that, Heagy recounts, at "Glacier Valley we wrote a grant to start Morning Musicians and once the School Board saw that we were reaching a very diverse group of kids who were willing to come to school at 7 a.m. in the morning twice a week, it was very apparent how powerful the arts are and how motivating it is to students". The School Board has funded the program for the past three years.

In sum, Heagy said "the arts give students community, confidence and builds connections to their learning."

Heagy was honored by the award and the opportunity to go to the symposium.

"I'm just really excited, and I can't wait to bring back new ideas," Heagy said.

The Distinguished Music Educator Award is given to 50 teachers around the nation. This year teachers from 37 states were recognized. The award is part of the biennial Yale School of Music and Yale College Class of 195's Symposium on Music. This year's symposium will take place on June 10 and 11 in New Haven, Conn. The award winners will attend will all expenses paid.

This is the symposium's second year, and the itinerary includes two panels: one on Venezuela's El Sistema program and its applicability in the United States and the other on connecting music to the general classroom.

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