SPOTLIGHT AWARD Winter 2014 – Michael Vasquez – San Antonio, TX
Michael is in his fifth year of teaching music and movement, helping students grow in Title I schools. With the start of the new school year, Michael began work at Charles L. Kuentz Elementary in Helotes, Texas where he teaches kindergarten through fifth grade. His general music classes meet for forty five minutes every six days with Michael guiding his students through musical and movement learning using his Orff and Dalcroze training. He enriches the musical experience for the third, fourth and fifth grade classes with collaboration across the grade levels, building off of the basic general music class lessons. Michael has also created an Orff Ensemble, which is called Kuentz C.O.R.E. (Create Orchestrate Respond and Explore). In addition, he conducts choir and string ensembles after school and in the spring, offers a before-school recorder lab where students tutor each other and ask for extra help.
Michael helps to insure that both in music and movement learning are evident throughout the school by providing situations and stimuli where the community is inspired to collaborate and share artistic experiences.
“My mission as a movement teacher is to build a sense of wonder and enjoyment in manipulating the human form. I find that I contribute the most to our campus, students and staff, by pushing their limitations and expanding their inhibition as performers. I try to incorporate various visual stimuli as inspiration and allow lots of collaborative projects for students to assess and share their strengths with others. This high expectation of musical knowledge and proficiency is carried throughout our school by our staff, who understand the importance of cultivating a strong musical mind for problem solving. “ – Michael Vasquez
He is developing new ways to give students ownership and pride in their music by providing opportunities where students’ artistic achievements can give back to the community. With his colleagues, he is in the process of creating a “Food From Fine Arts Night” where students will showcase music, theater and art in order to bring in donations for the local food bank.
Michael reaches his community on a professional level by presenting for his local Orff chapter as well as visiting his Alma mater, University of Texas at San Antonio, where he gives guest lectures to Music Methods classes, sharing his knowledge and experience of Orff Schulwerk and Dalcroze Eurhythmics with future teachers. Sample classroom videos of his students in action are shared with colleagues along with questions posed on social media to invoke new ideas from other music educators.
Michael believes the elemental approach has made his classroom a safe place for students to open up and be leaders in their own music making. This allows for musical moments of expression and interpretation to blossom and be evident in their performances.
“A truly elemental approach incorporates a seamless teaching process along with a widely differentiated learning environment. This has made my teaching more student-led and therefore less stressful to organize.” – Michael Vasquez
“Mr. Vasquez had brought new life in to the school [his previous school, Myer Elementary] and revived their struggling music program. He was an amazing teacher which was evidenced by his peers electing him as their Educator of the Year.”
“Whether he’s teaching kindergarten or 5th grade, Mr. Vasquez always begins his lesson the same – with respect for his students and respect for the music. The children hang on his every word and eagerly wait to find out where the next phase of the lesson will take them.”
Always a role model, one will usually find Mr. Vasquez playing his recorder, smiling and encouraging his students, and moving about the room with his students, always with his shoes off!
– Lori Gallegos, principal Charles L. Kuentz Elementary School