Originally Published: April 5, 2009 10:09 p.m.
After 19 years of directing high school choir at Prescott High School, Amy Van Winkle took two years off before returning to education - this time to Humboldt Unified School District, where she teaches music to "short people" at Coyote Springs and Granville Elementary schools.
Her peers, however, did not wake up from a deep sleep and forget about Van Winkle. In January, the Choral Directors Association of Arizona awarded her a Lifetime Achievement Award for service to students.
"I loved my high school time," Van Winkle said about her own alma mater, Prescott High School, where she credits former choir director David Lunt as the biggest influence in her decision to become a music teacher.
She said Lunt taught her, "It's more than music; it's the teaching. You're teaching to the total child."
She now works with classroom teachers, and draws in similar literature and math skills to her lessons, calling them "co-curricular" in nature.
During a recent music class with Coyote Springs first-graders, she read "Five Little Ladybugs," a rhyming story. The second reading involved student participation on selected instruments.
The children call them "toys," while Van Winkle uses the word "manipulatives." Some students played a crank stick as she turned pages. Some played castanets every time the word "ladybug" came up, and she assigned monkey drums and tom-toms when others heard any number.
Later, students counted to the eight-beat rhythm, and then attached actions to each section. With background music that increased in tempo, it made for a lively activity.
Van Winkle said she remembers falling in love with music from the start.
"It's exciting to be at that level again, especially as I get older. I feel like the luckiest person in the world," she said.
Her two-year "vacation" from 24 years in music education was a welcome break from the large amounts of time spent on rehearsals, bus trips, and competitions at the high school level.
"I wanted to get back into teaching and less performance," Van Winkle said.
She bartended in the Caribbean, and then returned to work as a graphic artist and then as the Arizona Sundogs' technical director and events coordinator for Tim's Toyota Center in Prescott Valley.
"I enjoy being back at the beginning teaching the basics - keeping a beat, moving the body to the beat, and expressing myself through music," Van Winkle said.
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