Warner Robins teacher nominated for educator award

Sun News correspondentJune 12, 2013 

WARNER ROBINS -- Lake Joy Primary School has a Grammy nominated music teacher.

Faye Boyer, a teacher at the school since 2003 when it opened, was nominated and is a quarterfinalist in the Grammy Foundation’s first-ever Grammy Music Educator Award.

Boyer is among 217 quarterfinalists narrowed from a field of more than 30,000 music educators. If she wins, she will be flown to Los Angeles for Grammy week, attend the awards ceremony and pick up a $10,000 honorarium.

And Lake Joy Primary will get a matching grant.

But for Boyer, as wonderful as the prospect of being top winner is, the fact she was nominated out of the blue by a former student is the real reward.

“The most important and meaningful thing to me is that a former student thought of me when she heard Justin Timberlake say the Grammys were going to honor teachers,” Boyer said. “When she heard the Grammys were going to look back where all these singers and musicians came from and honor teachers who inspired them -- like me.”

It was Elizabeth “Lizzie” Wheeless, 17, who nominated Boyer. Wheeless is now a high school senior in Taylor County, but in her early grades she was at Lake Joy in Boyer’s music class.

“Mrs. Boyer never gave up on me,” Wheeless said in a statement from Houston County schools. “I auditioned for band only to find out that I have no rhythm! It didn’t matter to her. She is a great teacher who will never give up on any student.”

Does Boyer remember Wheeless?

“Yes! Absolutely,” Boyer said. “But I don’t remember her not having rhythm. What made Elizabeth so special was she was somewhat shy and hadn’t really found her voice yet. She didn’t quite have the confidence to stand in front and take that risk. But she did. That’s something I think I helped her with. She’s still involved with music in other ways.”

Wheeless hopes to follow a career in sound engineering and has already done work at events like the Georgia Peach Festival and the Dukes of Hazzard Reunion.

Boyer said Wheeless told her when she heard Timberlake talk about the Grammys looking for extraordinary educators who had a positive impact on students, she immediately said, “That sounds like Ms. Boyer!”

“For a teenager to take the initiative and follow up and submit the information, I think that is pretty special,” Boyer said.

Right now, Boyer is preparing videos and more information required as part of the competition process. A group of semifinalists will be announced in August.

Criteria for the award include making a measurable difference in students’ lives, making a significant and lasting contribution to the field of music education and making a significant impact on their school and community.

“Really, what this does is put a stamp on what I do in the classroom every day,” Boyer said. “I like my students to find out music can be made from most anything -- from trash can lids to fine instruments. And I’m not just a music educator. I’m an educator. You can teach a lot more than music by teaching music. Music is about math.It’s about history. It’s about all kinds of things. Students can learn and make a connection in this setting that helps them in other classrooms. They can go, ‘Ah, I already know that.’ Like with fractions. Music is all about fractions.”

Boyer has taught at the college level as well as primary level and said she loves teaching young students because it’s at a young age that so much natural learning takes place. She said she loves pouring music into her kindergarten through second graders.

Part of a music-loving military family, Boyer said she spent a lot of time in the Columbus area but spent her high school years in Venice, Italy. She said she toured as a theater performer traveling in 16 countries before becoming a teacher.

But being a music educator and having the impact she does on young lives is her passion.

And making it this far, and possibly winning, the Grammy educator award is not Boyer’s only honor. She was Lake Joy’s first teacher of the year, selected by her peers for her dedication and innovative work with students.

“My greatest joy is passing on this gift, this love of music. From day one when I first opened a classroom door I’ve loved it. And from the start I’ve worked to have students with special needs in my classroom. Blind students, hearing-impaired students, students who don’t speak English. Music transcends that. We find ways to make it work. Houston County is such a great place to teach. They have a commitment and realize the value of arts education. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else.”

Contact Michael W. Pannell at mwpannell@gmail.com.

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