Hopkins teacher named Music Educator of the Year
After more than three decades perfecting her craft, band director at Alice Smith and Glen Lake elementary schools Kay Hawley has been awarded one the state’s highest honors.
Last month, the Minnesota Music Educators Association named Hawley the Minnesota Music Educator of the Year. She will be honored at the association’s 2013 Mid-Winter Clinic Friday, Feb. 15, 2013.
Hawley, who found out about the honor through an email from MMEA, said winning the award has been an overwhelming experience.
“I was stunned,” said Hawley, an Edina resident. “Honored, humbled. There are a lot of wonderful music educators. My husband just said, ‘Don’t think about it. Enjoy it.’”
Four of her peers in the music community nominated Hawley for the award, which is then decided by vote of the music association.
Award criteria include making a lasting difference in the lives of students, going above and beyond the call of duty by extending efforts beyond the classroom, making a significant impact on their community through music education, inspiring students to reach high levels of musical understanding and ability and demonstrating longevity in the field of music education by their many years of service.
“I am grateful to MMEA for this unexpected honor and appreciate the roll that the Hopkins Music Department, students, administration and parents have played in my selection,” Hawley said.
Where it all started
Hawley’s career in the Hopkins schools dates back 34 years. She spent the bulk of her time teaching at West Junior high – for 26 years – before leaving to teach at Alice Smith and Glen Lake last year.
Hawley credits former University of Minnesota Director of Bands Frank Bencriscutto as a mentor and inspiration for seeking a career in music education.
Hawley and Bencriscutto remained friends and colleagues up until he passed away in 1997.
“Kay’s outstanding conductor-teacher talents, natural ability to work collaboratively with others, open-mindedness, acceptance of hard work, determination to get a task accomplished, and dedication to the highest ideals have earned her tremendous respect from her colleagues and made her a leader in our state organizations,” Bencriscutto said in 1996. “Warm, friendly and sincere, she has a wonderfully positive attitude about life and an intense desire to make a difference in the lives of others.”
As a high school student, Hawley was chosen to play in the Minnesota Honors program. In college, Hawley was the only freshman on the Minnesota Wind Orchestra to visit the former Soviet Union as part of seven-week cultural exchange in 1969.
This trip and Bencriscutto’s guidance left its mark on Hawley and helped shape her career as a music educator.
Her teaching career
During her first year at West Junior High, the 9th grade band was invited to perform at the National Secondary School Principal’s Convention in New Orleans. At the convention, her students were combined with the inner city school students from Andrew Bell Junior High in New Orleans.
“Although separated by a thousand of miles of river and two different cultures, the students were brought together by the international language of music,” Hawley said. “It was a fantastic experience and it helped me to realize how motivating travel and performance goals could be.”
The following year, and for the 25 years that followed, Hawley offered an annual four-day, three-night tour to Chicago, where the band performed at the Music in the Parks Festival.
Students rehearsed in the Evanston High School auditorium, worked with renowned conductors, performed at the festival, visited Navy Pier in downtown Chicago and spent a half-day at Six Flags Great America.
“Hundreds of former students who participated on those tours have shared over the years that the Chicago Tour was one of the highlights of their junior high experience,” Hawley recalled.
Hawley said she originally wanted to become a teacher because she loved music, but no one ever told her that is not the most important aspect of her job.
What is important is that you like kids, said Hawley.
“Fortunately, I love kids,” she said. “Not a day goes by that one of them doesn’t bring a smile to my face.”
Hawley said she relishes the uniqueness of her students and the constant excitement and energy she receives from her work.
“It is never boring – it’s always new and interesting,” she said. “No two students are alike and you get to work with such a wide range of students and abilities. You can never just go through the motions with this job.”