CEDAR FALLS — A Lincoln Elementary School music teacher has caught the eye of the organization that honors top-selling recording artists.

Don’t expect to see Michelle Droe giving a speech on TV at the Grammy Awards. But the Lincoln vocal music teacher could be flown to New York in February to attend the 60th annual award show and other Grammy events if she is chosen as the 2018 recipient of the Music Educator Award.

Given by the Recording Academy and the Grammy Museum, the award was established to recognize music teachers who have made a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education, according to a news release. They also must demonstrate a commitment to the broader cause of maintaining music education in the schools. Nominees can work at any level from kindergarten to college, in public and private education.

In April, Droe was among 197 quarterfinalists for the award, drawn from 2,300 nominations from across the country. Recently, she was named as one of 25 semifinalists. In December, 10 finalists will be announced.

A $1,000 honorarium will be given to the finalists. The 15 remaining semifinalists receive a $500 honorarium. In both cases, a matching grant will be given to their schools.

“I didn’t expect to be in the 25 semifinalists,” said Droe, who has been teaching for 26 years and worked in Colorado and Florida before moving to Cedar Falls. She is already dreaming up uses for whichever matching grant her school receives. “I’m very happy about that.”

Now in her 12th year at Lincoln, Droe was nominated by student Elianna Davidson and her mother, Marla. “I’d never heard of the Grammy award” for teachers, she said. She was grateful for the nomination, though, and filled out an application.

The quarterfinalist notification included a request she submit several videos. Among those was an eight-minute video of Droe’s teaching and several four minute videos of her proudest moments, obstacles she has overcome and how she has been an advocate for education. There also were a number of videos with testimonials by other people.

“They didn’t give too many requirements,” she said, for the videos. “They want to see you as a musician outside of your classroom.”

The videos were recorded by her husband, Kevin, an associate professor of music education at the University of Northern Iowa. “He’s like my assistant,” said Droe, making repairs in her classroom and running sound at concerts. He also has pushed his wife to get out of her comfort zone.

One result of that is her involvement in the Spectrum Project, which meets at Lincoln every Saturday from January to April. It provides opportunities for music, visual art, dance/movement and drama for children ages 5-18 who are on the autism spectrum.

UNI students serve as program directors in each of the areas. “My job now is to mentor the music directors,” she said.

Some of Droe’s other professional work includes serving on the state’s 16-member fine arts standards adoption team and being the repertoire chair for children’s choirs on the Iowa Choral Director’s Association. She also substitutes on French horn for wcfsymphony and recently started a social justice choir with Travis Gratteau-Zinnell.

In her classroom work, she extensively uses games to teach notes and other concepts to students followed by brief periods of focus.

“Games and having fun is not a bad thing,” said Droe, noting she only sees students twice for 35 minutes every six days. “We’re trying to teach them the joy of music. I meet them where they are and pull the best out of them.”


Waterloo Schools / HCC Reporter

Education reporter for the Courier

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