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Mon, Sept. 16

Teacher earns Lifetime Achievement Award

Using paper plates as percussion instruments, Amy Van Winkle, right, leads CSES first graders in a rhythm and movement activity.<br>
TribPhoto/Sue Tone

Using paper plates as percussion instruments, Amy Van Winkle, right, leads CSES first graders in a rhythm and movement activity.<br> TribPhoto/Sue Tone

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 forget about Van Winkle. In January, the Choral Directors Association of Arizona awarded Van Winkle a Lifetime Achievement Award for service to students.

"I loved my high school time," Van Winkle said about her own alma mater, Prescott High, where she credits former choir director David Lunt as the biggest influence in her decision to become a music teacher.

What she learned from Lunt, she said, is that, "It's more than music, it's the teaching. You're teaching to the total child."

At the elementary school level, Van Winkle works with the 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 CSES first graders, she read "Five Little Ladybugs," a rhyming story with rhythm. The second reading involved students' participation on selected instruments - they call them "toys," Van Winkle calls them "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, she had students count to the eight-beat rhythm, and then attach actions to each section. With background music that increased in tempo, it made for a very lively activity.

Van Winkle said she remembers, at her very first experience with music, falling in love with it.

"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 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 plays the guitar and keyboard, but considers herself more of a vocalist. She will perform in an upcoming concert with other women in May.

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