Debi Biegel never toots her own horn, but everyone is tooting it for her, especially now that she is Montana's new Teacher of the Year. (Photo by Renee Westlake, Bozeman Public Schools)
Miss Biegel's opus
Bozeman music teacher is 2006
Montana Teacher of the Year
MEA-MFT member Debi Biegel has taught band for over two decades, but she never toots her own horn. She's too busy teaching kids in five different schools, composing original music for them, and taking them to perform at Carnegie Hall - among other things.
Now, however, all of Montana is tooting her horn and touting her accomplishments.
Biegel was selected as Montana's 2006 Teacher of the Year on September 17. When her colleagues in Bozeman got the news that night, they organized a celebration within half an hour, according to district music supervisor Renee Westlake.
The whole Bozeman community has been celebrating ever since.
As a music teacher for 28 years (25 years in Bozeman), Biegel has touched the lives of thousands of students, parents, community members, and other educators.
"I'm just reeling," she said. "I keep waking up in the middle of the night thinking it's a dream. I think this is the greatest thing that's ever happened to me."
To be chosen Montana Teacher of the Year is the highest honor a Montana teacher can receive. The Teacher of the Year program annually honors a teacher who exemplifies excellence in the teaching profession. The program is sponsored and administered by the Montana Professional Teaching Foundation.
An interview committee composed of 2005 Montana Teacher of the Year Mary Wren of Great Falls, other professional educators, an Office of Public Instruction representative, a parent/school board member, and a high school student chose Biegel from among three finalists.
"Debi Biegel is a team player, an innovative and motivating teacher, composer, conductor, mentor, master recruiter, musician, and superb organizer," Westlake said. "Her original compositions are joyful messages to parents about life's gifts."
Biegel has taught music at all grade levels. She currently teaches seven beginning fifth-grade bands in five elementary schools, plus third, fourth, and fifth grade general music and choir at Hawthorne Elementary.
"I believe one of the most important things I can do is to reach every child," Biegel said. "Sometimes lost children find their way in a music class. I had a mom tell me once that the only reason her fifth grade son wanted to come to school that year was because he was so excited about playing the clarinet in one of my fifth grade bands!"
Biegel said she doesn't mind being at school 10 to 12 hours a day plus some weekends, because she is so passionate about what she does. And her enthusiasm is contagious.
"The children become passionate about studying music because their teacher can hardly contain herself," she said.
Biegel is also passionate about the role of the arts in education. Study of the arts contributes enormously to the "perceptive, creative, and cognitive growth of every child," she said.
According to Hawthorne School Principal Marilyn Delger, Biegel has been an integral leader in Hawthorne's accomplishments as an award-winning model school for integration of the arts.
Last year, Biegel directed 62 students in the Hawthorne Choir in a performance at Carnegie Hall in New York.
"Parents love her enthusiasm, her creative energy, and her willingness to contribute her time and energy for momentous events such as this," Delger said.
"I seem to have a knack for motivating students," Beigel said. "I make sure the children know their boundaries and are on task, but we have a lot of fun together. Humor is very important in the classroom."
As Montana's Teacher of the Year for 2006, Biegel will represent Montana at the National Teacher of the Year event, sponsored by the Council of Chief State School Officers. She will also serve as a spokesperson for the teaching profession throughout the year.
Along with other state teachers of the year, she will meet the president of the United States at a private Rose Garden ceremony at the White House in spring 2006 and attend International Space Camp in Huntsville, Alabama next summer.
In addition to Debi Biegel, finalists in this year's Montana Teacher of the Year event are Carla Pfeifle, a secondary math teacher in the Power Public Schools, and Melinda Ferrell, a second grade teacher in Noxon.
More about the Montana Professional
The Montana Professional Teaching Foundation was created in 1996 by MEA-MFT, Montana's association for teachers and public employees, to promote and recognize excellent teaching.
The foundation's board of directors includes professional Montana teachers plus representatives from private business, the Office of Public Instruction, School Administrators of Montana, Montana Parent Teacher Association, Montana School Boards Association, and MEA-MFT. The foundation's headquarters are at 1232 E. 6th Ave., Helena, MT 59601.
More about Debra (Debi) Biegel:
· Bachelor of Music Education Degree, University of Montana, 1977.
· Master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction, Montana State University, 1991.
· 45 credits from MSU beyond Master's degree.
· National Association for Music Educators
· Montana Music Education Association
· Montana General Music Teacher's Association
· Bandmaster's Association
· National Education Association
· American Federation of Teachers
· Bozeman Education Association
· Bozeman Symphonic Choir
· Part of Hawthorne School Team to receive the Governor's Award for Service to the Arts, 2004.
· Part of Hawthorne School Team honored by Boyer Center and National Principals Association for leadership in arts integration.