Homer Intermediate School music teacher Michelle Matteson was recently named the Arts Educator of the Year as part of the Le Moyne College Arts Administration Program inaugural Impact Awards.
Matteson, who has been teaching music at the school for the last 20 years, said she is humbled and honored by the award.
“There are so many great music teachers that give their hearts to their students,” said Matteson. “And being an elementary music teacher, it makes it even more special.”
The Impact Awards are meant to celebrate those who work behind the scenes to produce, present, curate and/or teach the arts. Matteson said she was amazed to be included with other winners, such as Symphonia Director of Operations Jon Garland.
Matteson said she considers her award a reflection on the entire Homer Central School District music department.
“What we have here is strong. I consider this an honor for the whole music department, as well as the district,” she said.
Homer High School Band Director David DiGennaro said Matteson is a huge reason why the music department at Homer is so successful.
“The music experiences the kids have after they leave Michelle are just the walls built upon the foundations that she has established,” he said.
Matteson said the music department incorporates several key strategies to help elementary students create a strong foundation, including extra time spent on sight reading and the development of a mentoring system between junior high students and fourth graders.
“The mentoring program really makes the students feel secure,” Matteson said. “It creates a friendship that lasts for years.”
Those strategies, among others, have been paying off as 100 percent of Matteson’s students received the top score at this year’s NYSSMA Solo Festival.
After 25 years in education, Matteson said the fun she has with students is what keeps her motivated every day.
“I love every second of it. The students make me laugh every day,” she said. “It’s just all about being patient and having fun. The students are really putting themselves out there and they receive a great sense of pride and accomplishment from music. How cool is it that I get to do that with them?”