GCS, ArtsGreensboro Announce Arts Educators of the Year

Arts Educators Three outstanding Guilford County Schools educators were honored tonight as the ArtsGreensboro Arts Educators of the Year and finalists. The award, established in 2006, recognizes an outstanding arts educator in the Guilford County Schools system. Each receives $1,000 to use toward professional development.

This year, two winners were chosen for their leadership and commitment to providing inspiring opportunities to their students: Donald Walter at Northwest Middle and Cassy Whitley at The Academy at Lincoln. Michael Connors at Penn-Griffin School for the Arts was named runner-up.  

Walter re-energized a struggling band and orchestra program at Northwest Middle and turned it into a model for others to follow. Enrollment in band and orchestra has skyrocketed from 200 students to more than 360 since Walter was hired at Northwest Middle. More than one-third of the student population now participates in either band or orchestra.

He recently established a new adjudication clinic and process for the orchestra programs in Guilford County, giving participating orchestras the opportunity to receive comments, ratings and a private clinic with a guest clinician – an invaluable experience for students and teachers alike.

Whitley has fostered a positive, creative, learning environment for the theatre students in her classroom at The Academy at Lincoln. She produces two school plays a year, dedicating countless hours outside of the classroom to making the plays a success. These plays bring together students from various backgrounds, creating a greater sense of community within the school.

She helps her students prepare auditions for productions throughout the community and for performing arts high schools. This year she began planning a first-ever drama/Broadway trip to New York City for middle school theatre students, and she organized five different fundraising initiatives to make it possible.

The runner-up, Michael Connors of Penn-Griffin School for the Arts, believes in exposing students to all kinds of music and experiences. He invites talented and well-known artists to perform throughout the school year, often making arrangements so his students get to perform a song or two with the artist.

He finds many opportunities to have his students perform in the community not only to showcase their talents, but to also support the many nonprofit events around town. He designed and implemented the only high school Celtic harp program in North Carolina, and his students have willingly come to school an hour early for the past five years to play harp.

Photo cutline: From left are Donald Walter of Northwest Middle, Cassy Whitley of The Academy at Lincoln and Michael Connors of Penn-Griffin School for the Arts.