Brendell named NC Middle School Choral Teacher of the Year
For Janna Brendell, the Waynesville Middle School chorus teacher, music is about more than just scales and music notes — it’s about creativity.
“I think any of the arts allow our students to express themselves and be creative,” Brendell said. “It touches students’ lives and transforms their lives in ways that other school subjects cannot.”
It may have been her creative strategies that recently earned her the recognition of the Richard E. Keasler North Carolina Middle School Choral Teacher of the Year.
The Middle School Section of the North Carolina Music Educators Association presents the Richard E. Keasler Teacher of the Year Award annually at the NCMEA In-Service Conference each November.
To be considered for the award, teachers must be active in the NCMEA for at least three years, have at least five years of teaching experience in North Carolina and must be nominated by an NCMEA member.
Brendell, who has been teaching music for a total of 27 years, was in a state of shock when she first learned of her award.
“I would sit in that auditorium year after year, and I couldn’t even imagine being up there.” Brendell said. “We were all sitting in a huge auditorium and when they started to introduce the person, I realized that was me. I was shocked wasn’t expecting it at all. It’s very overwhelming and humbling.”
Brendell received the award during the North Carolina Music Educators Conference in Winston-Salem last month. She said it felt special to receive the award, particularly because some of her chorus students were there to see it.
“Everybody has been very supportive,” Brendell said. “It was really neat to get the award with nine of my students there with me. I love working with the students and watching them grow and develop their talent. Still some days I think, ‘Did this really happen?’ But I have the plaque so I can see it’s real.”
Brendell said she had been involved with music all her life, starting with playing piano at a young age and was in a church choir. She also took band in chorus when she was in school.
“I was musical all my life — it was just kind of a natural thing to follow that path as a music teacher,” she said.
Brendell studied music education at Mars Hill College, where she received her bachelor’s degree, and she continued the same path when she receivd her master’s degree East Carolina University and received her PhD at Florida State University.
Brendell is a native of Haywood County, and has taught at Waynesville Middle for the past 10 years. She also taught in Buncombe County and at East Carolina University.
At the end of the day, Brendell credits her determination and dedication to receiving the award.
“I think I really strive for excellence when we perform,” she said. “You don’t ever think it’s going to be you that wins. There are so many other amazing teachers I know in North Carolina. I don’t think about myself, I just think about the other people who should be nominated.
The award was named in honor of Richard Keasler, who taught middle and high school choral music for 30 years in Cabarrus County. During his tenure, he inspired many of his students to become music teachers. Even during retirement, Keasler continues to adjudicate middle and high school choral festivals.