Outstanding Music Educator
2018 Nominees

Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year
Alan Cunningham, teaches Elementary Music at Sunflower Elementary School (Gr. K-5) in Ottawa. 38 years of teaching. Why does Alan teach?... "I love music, I love kids, I love being creative, I want my students to find the joy in music that I found when I was their age."
Outstanding Middle Level Orchestra Director
Ethan Loewen, Teaches Orchestra at Timber Creek Elementary (Gr. 4-5), Aubry Bend Middle School (Gr 6-8), and Blue Valley Southwest High School (9-12), 9 years of teaching. "Teaching allows me to spread my passion for music to others while providing an experience that creates well rounded individuals."

Mike Arbucci, Teaches at Blue Valley Northwest High School (Gr. 9-12 Orchestra), Harmony Middle School (Gr. 7-8 Orchestra) and Harmony Elementary School (Grades 4-5 Orchestra), 12 years of teaching. When asked why he teaches, Mike stated, "There's something very special about making music in itself, but to lead students on that journey from the auspices of the first sight-read through the enchanted forest of rehearsals and technique acquisition, and finally to the formal fireworks of a performance is even better. To see my students struggle, persevere, learn, and eventually succeed, culminating in the ultimate 'authentic performance'— this is why I teach."
Outstanding High School Orchestra Director
Mike Arbucci, Teaches at Blue Valley Northwest High School (Gr. 9-12 Orchestra), Harmony Middle School (Gr. 7-8 Orchestra) and Harmony Elementary School (Grades 4-5 Orchestra), 12 years of teaching. When asked why he teaches, Mike stated, "There's something very special about making music in itself, but to lead students on that journey from the auspices of the first sight-read through the enchanted forest of rehearsals and technique acquisition, and finally to the formal fireworks of a performance is even better. To see my students struggle, persevere, learn, and eventually succeed, culminating in the ultimate 'authentic performance'— this is why I teach."

JJ Wallace, Olathe West High School Orchestra, Olathe, 19 years of teaching. "I love teaching because I enjoy helping students learn to love music, and grow not only as musicians, but also as people, from children to young adults."

Ethan Loewen, Teaches Orchestra at Timber Creek Elementary (Gr. 4-5), Aubry Bend Middle School (Gr 6-8), and Blue Valley Southwest High School (9-12), 9 years of teaching. "Teaching allows me to spread my passion for music to others while providing an experience that creates well rounded individuals."
Outstanding Middle Level Band Director
Mark Pauqette, Director of Bands at Ottawa Middle School in Ottawa. 23 years of teaching

Nicole Chapple, Oregon Trail Middle School Band (Gr. 6-8), Olathe, 14 years of teaching. "Music is and always has been my passion; sharing that passion with students and watching & hearing them experience music and be impacted by it is one of the best parts of being a music educator.

Eric Griffin, Mission Trail Middle School Band (Gr. 6-8), Olathe, 23 years of teaching. "Kids + music = rewarding!"

Sara Smitko, Middle School Band Director (Gr. 6-8) at Frontier Trail Middle School, Olathe, 15 years of teaching. Sara says, "I view teaching middle school band students as a privilege. I strive to create a nurturing learning environment where my students build positive connections with music and their classmates. Using an instrument as the vehicle, it is my mission to instill in my students a lifelong love of music, a passion for them to always reach for their highest potential, and to be a contributing member of their team."
Outstanding High School Band Director
Helen Harrelson, Music Educator at St James Academy, where she teaches Band, Jazz, Drum Line, and Orchestra, 18 years of teaching. "I believe that music is a universal language that can help foster emotional growth, develop community and inspire so many. Musical education in my world is for all, it is inclusive and available to anyone willing to participate. I love that I get to give back the time and passion that was given to me in my younger years, through my school and volunteer work. I'm honored to get to walk with my students through the highs and lows of middle and high school and often help pave the way to future careers. I'm privileged to have had the support of my admin and peers so that we have built, from ground up, successful music programs that fit the student, school and community needs. I'm extremely honored to have been nominated for this position. THANK YOU!"

Courtney Nichols, Director of High School Bands, Ottawa High School and Middle School (Gr. 6-12), 13 years of teaching. "The kids are the reason I love to teach music-I tell my students all the time that Band kids are the best kids in the school and that they make me look forward to coming to school each morning and making music with them. It's a dream job!"

John Wickersham, Assistant Band Director at Olathe West High School, Elementary Band Director at Clearwater Creek & Prairie Center Elementary Schools, 10 years of teaching. "Being a High School and Elementary Director provides me many reasons to love teaching band! In high school, I love helping students reach their goals and come together as a team. In elementary, I love all of the "Lightbulb Moments" students have as they learn to play their instrument."
Outstanding High School Choir Director
Lori Underwood, Ottawa High School (Gr. 9-12), 23 years of teaching. "I want my students to see the world, to know there is more beyond their backyard, their neighborhood, their city; and I want them to know that their life is full of possibilities. Music can do all that."

Joe Heidesch, St. Thomas Aquinas High School Choir Director, Overland Park, 20 years of teaching. "My favorite part of teaching is to see the students' faces when they, after all of their hard work, achieve a goal; ie. getting a 1 rating, making the musical, making finals in show choir, moving people emotionally through what they are singing as they themselves are moved, etc."