Four years ago Heidi Welch began planning a spring trip for her music students, a performance trip to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. Welch, a 9–12 grade music teacher from New Hampshire, had no idea when she began plans for the trip that she would need to make little detour to the White House on the way home.
Welch, who is current New Hampshire State Teacher of the Year, teaches at Hillsboro-Deering High School in Hillsboro. She was one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year and participated in a series of NTOY events in Washington, DC, the week of April 22.
On April 23 Welch and the other state teachers attended a ceremony at the White House where they met President Barack Obama. He spoke about the dedication teachers have. In addition to the Rose Garden event, she participated in a panel discussion of parenting bloggers that was moderated by Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, who is a lifelong educator. Welch and her fellow teachers also attended a gala held in their honor. There were also professional development sessions for the group.
Welch said the week in Washington, D.C., was “quite the whirlwind.” Of the trip to the White House, she joked, “It was all kind of a blur and a lot to take in—being in the Roosevelt room and the Oval Office (I remember standing near a fireplace), the Rose Garden ceremony. I am happy that in his speech the President mentioned the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) classes, but also he said the arts are important for well-rounded students.”
The National Teacher of the Year Process
The Council of Chief State School Officers (CCSSO) selected Jeff Charbonneau, a 9–12th grade chemistry, physics and engineering teacher at Zillah (Washington) High School as the 2013 National Teacher of the Year.
Welch knew of Charbonneau’s selection well in advance of announcement, and said, “It was such a huge emotional weight because I couldn’t tell anyone. At first I was really disappointed because [NTOY] is such a great opportunity, but I decided it was for the best.
“You have to take a year off to travel and make speeches throughout the country and that would mean I wouldn’t be there for my seniors next year. Jeff [Charbonneau] will do a great job of representing all of us. We are a close-knit group,” she said of the 2013 teachers.
She set up a Facebook page so she and the other 53 state teachers can keep in touch. “I am very honored to have been the only arts teacher selected as a state teacher of the year for 2013,” Welch said, adding that she has had the opportunity to talk about music education with state teachers of various subjects. She said CCSO schedules meetings for the state teachers of the year during and after the NTOY selection process.
As New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, Welch is doing local speaking engagements which she can plan around her schedule. Along with other state teachers this year, she is conducting site visits and already talking with teachers who will considered for 2014 National Teacher of the Year.
A member of the National Association for Music Education (NAfME), and of the New Hampshire Music Educators Association, Welch has served as the director of music at Hillsboro-Deering High School for 16 years. She teaches chorus, a cappella choir, concert band, marching band, musical theater, music theory, American history through music, film music, and a guitar classes. “I have a great job,” Welch said.
“We are a small school in a rural community of 5,000, and I had to build the program from the ground up. And I am the only music teacher, so I am very close to my students,” Welch said. She also believes in empowering her students, who conduct music and help her to lead classes in other ways. She taught students who have gone on to become music teachers themselves.
That is one reason she felt she could leave the trip a day early. Chaperones and student leaders kept the end of the trip moving smoothly. Her concert band, marching band and choral group performed at various Disney venues.
“We all worked so hard to pay for the [Disney] trip. We parked cars at NASCAR races, performed for donations wherever we could. The community here is so supportive of us. It was a great experience for everyone to prepare for the trip.”
She said being New Hampshire state teacher also have given her a few perks, like a SMART board, donated to all of the state teachers by SMART Technologies. She is learning to use in her classroom.
Roz Fehr, NAfME Managing Editor for News, May 2, 2013. © National Association for Music Education