Anne Funk Citation of Excellence 2009

 Michael Holupka directs students in Mars Area School District, where he has taught music for 25 years and was recently named to head the music curriculum with another teacher.
Two music teachers from northern school districts have been named among the 12 best middle school music teachers in the state.

AnneAnne Funk teaches strings at Carson Middle School and Hosack Elementary School in the North Allegheny School District, and Michael Holupka teaches band and general music at Mars Area Middle School. Both will receive Citations of Excellence in April from the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association.

"I had no idea this was coming my way," said Mrs. Funk, of McCandless. "I was surprised."

She is the winner in District 1, which comprises Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties and has 550 music teachers in the association, according to the group's Web site.

Mr. Holupka, of Butler Township, is the winner in District 5, which encompasses Beaver, Butler, Lawrence and Mercer counties and has 250 association members.

"It's a very humbling thing," he said. "I still haven't really come to grips with it."

Mrs. Funk was nominated for the award by Sarah Lavelle, the strings teacher at North Allegheny Senior High School.

"The greatest honor for me is that I was recognized by colleagues," Mrs. Funk said. "And that Sarah was willing to take the time. It takes an inordinate amount of effort [to submit a nomination]."

Mrs. Funk, who has been teaching in North Allegheny for 17 years, said she also received letters of recommendation from Hosack Principal Craig Slaubaugh, Carson Principal Katherine Jenkins and some former students who are now at the high school.

"Not only is Mrs. Funk an expert musician and teacher whose ensembles play well beyond their years, she is also incredibly well-respected and loved by her students," Mrs. Lavelle wrote. "While holding her students to very high standards, she keeps her kids laughing and having fun making very high quality music."

Mr. Holupka, who was nominated by a music teacher in another District 5 school, has been teaching in Mars Area for 25 years and was recently appointed to head the district music curriculum with another teacher, Christopher Protho.

"Mike goes above and beyond the call of duty with the Mars Area School District music program," said middle school Principal Richard Cornell, who also was named outstanding principal for District 5 of the association. "His standards and expectations for his students and program are why the middle school instrumental music groups have received superior ratings the past five years or more at the PMEA adjudications."

Mr. Holupka gives much of the credit for his success to his colleagues at the middle school and to Chuck Prijatelj, the former band director at Mars Area High School, who started in the district at the same time and is now curriculum coordinator at a school district in Mercer County.

"It only works if everybody else in your building helps you," Mr. Holupka said. "The faculty and administrator in the middle school helped me to do what I need to do."

The Citation of Excellence is given to elementary, middle and high school teachers on a rotating basis. The teachers must be nominated by another association member to be considered. The nominator and the administrator who supervises the nominee must submit a schedule and brief description of the teacher's classes, describe that person's specific teaching skills, itemize and describe the teacher's "unique qualities" and list materials and techniques the teacher uses to provide a high quality music program.