Music educators in Chautauqua County knew about Kent Knappenberger's dedication to his students long before news broke Tuesday that Knappenberger had won the inaugural Music Educator Award from The Recording Academy and the Grammy Foundation.
Knappenberger spent his 25-year career at Westfield Academy And Central School making music available to all students who show even the slightest bit of interest while also using his position to enrich the lives of all students, even those who don't know a tuba from a trumpet.
Mackenzi Habig, a senior at Westfield, and junior Chris Cockram took time during a recent event honoring Knappenberger to present the top 10 life lessons as taught by Knappenberger: don't consider yourself above or below a situation; when singing make sure you show off talents to the world; don't be afraid to fail; everyone needs someone, no matter how important they are; have standards; be early to any flight; don't waste precious time; it's OK for men to sing; and be a swimmer instead of an ice skater. The top lesson was to see the good in the world with eyes full of wonder.
Much has been said in the past couple of years about the need to evaluate teachers objectively in order to improve the quality of education for a generation of children that has by and large left high school unready for college or a career. Done correctly, there is nothing wrong with evaluating teachers.
We have a hunch those evaluations may miss the types of life lessons and collaborative atmosphere fostered by teachers like Knappenberger-and that is truly unfortunate. Teachers like Knappenberger, as well as Tim Cook and Lon Knappenberger, a pair of area teachers recently named New York State Master Teachers, are examples who should be followed by their peers.
It's wonderful the Grammy Foundation created an award for music educators, a class of teachers who are often forgotten anymore. And it is only fitting that Kent Knappenberger is the winner of its inaugural Music Educator Award.