UWL alumnus, music educator is Wisconsin’s National Teacher of the Year nominee
Chris Gleason, ’02, will represent Wisconsin in the National Teacher of the Year program.
Gleason earned a Master of Education-Professional Development degree from UWL and a bachelor’s degree in music education from UW-Eau Claire. He is a band director and instrumental music teacher at Patrick Marsh Middle School in the Sun Prairie Area School District.
UWL’s MEPD program was vital to his growth as an educator, he says.
“The program was so well designed offering autonomy, collaboration, and opportunities for self-reflection,” says Gleason. “I think back fondly on our classes and the time we spent building community and constructing knowledge. It made a significant impact on who I am today.”
State Superintendent Tony Evers says Gleason is a recognized leader in education who contributes to his community and fellow educators to improve their teaching practice.
During a video interview, Evers asks Gleason how he has helped make sure all kids — regardless of their financial status — can participate in band. He also asks Gleason how he has given middle school students opportunities to start composing music alongside professional composers. Watch the video.
“Our goal is that any child who walks through our doors will find an instrument,” says Gleason in the interview. “It even went to the point where I’m finding instruments in my dad’s garage because he was a band director.”
Colleagues in the Sun Prairie Area School District banded together to create a foundation to supply instruments to kids who need them, explains Gleason. Gleason also provides students with opportunities to work with local professional musicians in a program called the Band Lesson Academy. More than $1,500 in scholarships are awarded each year through the academy to support students who would have otherwise not been able to afford lessons.
This year marks the seventh year of ComMission Possible Project, which Gleason started to bring nationally renown composers to Sun Prairie to collaborate with students. Together they write a commissioned piece of music for middle school band students. The first commissioned piece, based on Georgia O’Keeffe’s painting “Blue and Green Music,” was debut before a packed house in Sun Prairie.
“I have seen the magic that takes place when students and composers collaborate,” says Gleason. “I strive to provide this creative experience to every student who passes through my classroom.”
Gleason believes in getting his students out into the community through performances such as Sun Prairie’s senior care homes, the American Family Insurance Holiday Breakfast, and in the Memorial Day parade. His middle school bands have twice been chosen to perform at the Capitol Rotunda for Music in our Schools month.
About the award
Gleason was named Wisconsin’s Middle School Teacher of the Year in a surprise ceremony at his school in early September. Recipients inspire students’ love of learning, demonstrate instructional innovation and leadership, and are committed to community involvement.
In a subsequent announcement Gleason was selected to represent Wisconsin in the National Teacher of the Year program. He will receive an additional $6,000 from the Herb Kohl Educational Foundation. Gleason’s total award from the foundation as a Kohl Teacher Fellow, Middle School Teacher of the Year, and representative to the National Teacher of the Year program is $12,000.
The National Teacher of the Year program began in 1952 and continues as the oldest national honors program that focuses public attention on excellence in teaching. The National Teacher of the Year will be chosen by a national selection committee in spring.
Gleason recently received the Mel Pontious Spark Award for innovative teaching, and the Wisconsin Music Educator Association Michael G. George Distinguished Service Award. Additionally, he is among 213 quarterfinalists nationwide for the 2017 Music Educator Award presented by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.