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Music to his ears

Brandon music man named Teacher of the Year

Oakwood music teacher Mike Medvinsky is congratulated by students after the announcement of Teacher of the Year. Photo by Patrick McAbee. (click for larger version)
April 11, 2012 - Brandon Twp.- Heather Odinga walked into an Oakwood Elementary classroom two years ago and announced this district's first ever Oakland County Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year, Debbie Brauher.

On Wednesday, she returned to announce the 2012 winner.

"No way!" exclaimed Mike Medvinsky as Odinga walked in to his music room, accompanied by Oakwood Principal Kristy Spann, District Superintendent Lorrie McMahon, and more well-wishers bearing balloons and a sign declaring him the 2012 Oakland County Outstanding Elementary Teacher of the Year. "Man, this is incredible. Thank you so much, I love what I do."

A room full of children cheered and clapped, then nearly knocked him and a guitar over as they celebrated with hugs for their teacher.

"I'm not a teacher until the learners come to my room, so thank you all so much!" Medvinsky told them.

Oakland Schools has presented the award annually since 1987 to county teachers at the elementary, middle school and high school levels to honor those who have achieved, through their effort and example, the highest standards of excellence in their profession.

Medvinsky was one of 22 teachers considered in the elementary category this year and he may be the first ever music teacher to receive the award.

"I can't recall a music teacher ever being named teacher of the year before," said Odinga, project/department assistant for Oakland Schools.

"To be nominated in a position like this, especially in the field of arts is a real honor," said Medvinsky. "Music teachers aren't always viewed as academic educators and to win is not only an honor for me, but an honor to the field."

Medvinsky earned his bachelor's degree in music education from Oakland University in 2005 and has nearly completed his master of music degree. He has been a teacher in Brandon for the past five years, passing on his love of music to kindergarten through fourth grade students, as well as fifth and sixth grade students at Brandon Fletcher Intermediate School, and students at the alternative high school. Additionally, he teaches language arts to students in the summer at Oakwood and teaches reading to elementary students in the EXTRA after-school tutoring program. He also teaches music technology and secondary methods at Oakland University, as well as runs a professional development workshop at OU.

Spann said in deciding which teacher to nominate each year, she sends an e-mail to staff requesting their input and Medvinsky was the clear recommendation.

"Here's a teacher who includes whatever is necessary to engage every student in the learning process," she said. "Here's a teacher who sees himself as just as much a learner as the students who walk through his door— a teacher who is passionate not just about learning, but the relationships we build in this journey called life. While he has an amazing skill set for teaching, he has an equally amazing heart for humanity... Mike is a positive deviant— he's the person making a difference in an extraordinary and positive way."

In the nomination packet Spann submitted to Oakland Schools, she gave several examples of how Medvinsky engages students, encourages them to experiment with creating their own music, interpreting it, adapting instruments, composing songs, and using all the technology available to them.

Madison Minor, 8, and Nolan Federow, 9, both third graders at Oakwood and students of Medvinsky, were thrilled with his win.

"He really did deserve this," said Madison. "He's a great teacher... Sometimes he's funny, but if we get off track he goes back to serious. He sticks with you if you don't really get it... He'll just try and teach us again in a different way."

"Until we get it," chimes in Nolan. "I like when we make up our own songs and pick our own instrument and play what we want to. He really helps us out and if we make a mistake, he helps. If we mess up, it's not a big deal. He's a really awesome teacher."

Susan covers Brandon Township and Ortonville
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