Hayden teacher awarded

Michelle Wilkie named Wal-Mart teacher of the year

— Michelle Wilkie, a self-described talker, rarely has been at a loss for words.

But Wilkie, Hayden Elemen-tary School's music teacher, found herself speechless on the last day of school last May when she was called to the stage to accept a $1,000 check for being named a Wal-Mart teacher of the year.

"I'm a very vocal person, but that was actually the first time I couldn't come up with any words," Wilkie said Tuesday, shortly after Hayden's first day of school ended. "I was very touched, very dumbfounded. It was very emotional."

Every year, Wal-Mart stores across the nation name teachers of the year; Wilkie was named teacher of the year in Routt County after being nominated by her students, Steamboat Springs Wal-Mart Manager Mark Meade said.

"That's a pretty neat deal, that her students thought that highly of her," Meade said.

Wilkie agrees.

"For me to have made such an impact on a student that they think of me as a great teacher -- then I did my job," Wilkie said. "You don't become (a teacher) for the money. You do it for the kids and to make an impact on them."

Making an impact runs in the Wilkie family. Wilkie said she's a third-generation teacher -- her grandparents taught, and her mother and father taught in Steamboat Springs public schools for decades. But Wilkie, who taught core subjects for seven years before switching to music, never would have guessed she would find her calling in music.

"But I can see myself doing this for a long time," she said. "I get to see every elementary student every day. It's a way for me to touch each of those kids somehow."

Teaching students to appreciate various forms of music, instruments and cultures has been a goal of Wilkie's since she took over as the school's music teacher three years ago.

"I just really want them to see that music isn't boring," she said. "I try to make it fun for them and to expose them to anything and everything that will excite them. When a student likes opera, that's exciting."

Dispelling children's misconceptions about music is one of the biggest obstacles a music teacher must try to overcome, Wilkie said.

"I try to explain that composers aren't just men who wore wigs -- The Rolling Stones are composers, too," she said.

Wilkie has done wonderful things for the school's music program, such as rekindling the end-of-year student musicals, Hayden Elementary Principal Mike Luppes said.

"She's just done such an excellent job," Luppes said.

Wilkie plans to use the $1,000 award to buy new instruments for her students and to bring live performances to the school.

-- To reach Brent Boyer call 871-4234

or e-mail bboyer@steamboatpilot.com

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