Teacher tops on national scale

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By ERIN MAYES

Music teacher Mickey Harper has won a prestigious award that comes with a $10,000 gift.

And she already knows how she'll spend most of the money on her students.

Harper, who teaches at Albert Michelson Elementary, Avery Middle and Hazel Fischer Elementary schools, is one of five music instructors nationwide who won Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation Awards.

In March, she'll be handed the award by astronaut and former Ohio Sen. John Glenn in a ceremony at New York City's Carnegie Hall.

Harper was one of 400 teachers nominated. The excellence-in-teaching honor is given by the Mr. Holland's Opus Foundation, which supports music education through donations and repair of musical instruments for schools, community music programs and students nationwide.

The foundation was inspired by the movie "Mr. Holland's Opus," the story of a dedicated music teacher and the effect he had on generations of students. The film's composer, Michael Kamen, started the foundation in 1996.

The $10,000 award is money Harper can spend any way she likes. But she'll funnel most of it straight back into the music programs at her three schools.

Only one purchase a piano will be for herself.

"Mickey has been conferring with me about how best to spend the money," said Avery Middle School Principal Kevin Harte. "I told her 'You can go to the Bahamas if you want. It would be a well-deserved vacation.'"

But, Harte said, Harper is looking into ways to use the cash for her music program and activities that will involve the community.

Harte said he's not surprised that Harper won or that she's like to spend the money on others.

"She's an icon around these parts," he said. "I was a long-time music teacher myself and developed similar programs, and I know what she goes through, how many sacrifices it takes to keep a program viable. It can be intense."

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The Union Democrat
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