Special to The Sun
Three music teachers from Edmond have been honored as “Exemplary Teachers” by the Oklahoma Music Educators Association (OMEA) during the organizations winter conference Jan. 15-18 in Tulsa.
Santa Fe High School Director of Bands Mike Lowery, Sequoyah Middle School Orchestra teacher Diane Berger and Cross Timbers Elementary School music teacher Leah McDonald are among 10 public and private teachers receiving the recognition. The award is given to music teachers in Oklahoma who have demonstrated a mastery of music education through the production of exemplary performing organizations and/or individual music students.
“These educators are very deserving of this recognition,” said Superintendent David Goin. “They have inspired countless students to embrace the arts, shaped exceptional programs at their respective schools and together have amassed an impressive number of honors and awards for their performing groups.”
In 1978, Diane Berger started the orchestra program in Edmond, laying the groundwork for one of the largest and most successful programs in the state. Although currently at Sequoyah Middle School, she also has taught at Memorial High School, North High School and the former eighth-grade center. Under her baton, several orchestras have earned superior ratings at state competition. In addition, all three high school orchestras are regularly honored with OSSAA Sweepstakes Awards. She received the Oklahoma “American String Teacher of the Year” award in 2002 and the “Distinguished Service Award” from Edmond Public Schools.
“We owe a great debt of gratitude to Ms. Berger for her vision and tenacity to start an orchestra program from scratch, one that would become a flagship school arts organization for our region,” said Peter Markes, Edmond North orchestra director and 2014 Teacher of the Year for Oklahoma. “From humble beginnings rehearsing in cafeterias and storage closets to now having more than 800 students in eight schools involved in strings, many of us owe her thanks.”
Mike Lowery has taught for 32 years in Edmond Public Schools. Under his direction the Santa Fe High School bands have been named “outstanding” in festivals in Chicago, St. Louis, Dallas and San Antonio. Recently, band members returned from London, England, after performing for the New Year’s Day Parade — an event seen by millions worldwide. Mr. Lowery was named the Oklahoma and Section 6 (Texas, Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas) “Outstanding Music Educator” by the National Federation of High Schools in 2003, the Santa Fe High School “Teacher of the Year” in 2005 and the Oklahoma Bandmasters Association “Director of the Year” for 2008.
Leah McDonald teaches elementary music at Cross Timbers Elementary and is Elementary Music Facilitator for Edmond Public Schools. In addition to teaching, she also conducts the Edmond Youth Chorus through the Fine Arts Institute of Edmond. She is the inaugural recipient of the Oklahoma Fine Arts Educator Award, was named Edmond Teacher of the Year in 2004 and was also a finalist for the Oklahoma Teacher of the Year in 2004.