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Ann Arbor teacher named quarterfinalist for music educator award by Grammy Museum

Thurston Elementary School music teacher Yael Rothfeld. Photo courtesy of Yael Rothfeld.
Thurston Elementary School music teacher Yael Rothfeld. Photo courtesy of Yael Rothfeld. (Yael Rothfeld)

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – A local music teacher is in the running to receive a 2022 Music Educator Award from the Grammy Museum and the Recording Academy.

“I was a little shellshocked, I guess. It wasn’t something I was expecting. I was checking my email right before a yoga class and I happened to just see it,” said Yael Rothfeld about being notified of her nomination.

The Music Educator Award recognizes current educators who significantly contribute to the field of music education. Participants will be narrowed down until one recipient is chosen and recognized during Grammy Week 2022.

“I was just really honored and, especially after this difficult year with COVID, I feel like it was a nice acknowledgment that all of the hard work I am doing is being seen,” she said.

Rothfeld has taught at Thurston Elementary School for 18 years. It’s clear her years of dedication haven’t gone unnoticed, but she doesn’t know who submitted her nomination as it was done anonymously.

She joins 218 other quarterfinalists from around the United States.

Thurston Elementary School music teacher Yael Rothfeld. Photo courtesy of Yael Rothfeld. (Yael Rothfeld)

After being notified of her nomination, Rothfeld filled out an application and submitted videos of herself answering questions to be considered for the next step of the award process.

She had to share how music makes a difference in the lives of her students, how she involves research, how she plays a part in her school and her community, and how she has had to adjust to teaching during a pandemic.

Typically, Rothfeld teaches preschool through fifth grade. Her students learn the recorder, ukelele, how to write music and musical improv, among other things.

During the last school year, she had to rethink practicing and performing as she went from seeing groups of students 2-3 times a week to just once.

But Rothfeld got creative wither her online classes by incorporating websites and online applications. With the app Acapella, she would record multiple musical parts on top of each other to show students how things worked together. She used a music composition website to challenge her students to finish the end of a song she had begun to compose.

Although teaching online was challenging, she added that there were positives. Sometimes siblings, parents or grandparents would join students for activities during her online classes.

“It would sometimes be a family affair, which is kind of fun,” Rothfeld said.

She will know in September if she proceeds on to the semifinals. From there, if Rothfeld becomes the winning finalist, she’ll be flown to Los Angeles to attend the 64th annual Grammy Awards.

Students working on an activity. Photo courtesy of Yael Rothfeld. (Yael Rothfeld)

About the Author:

Sarah has worked for WDIV since June 2018. She covers community events, good eats and small businesses in Ann Arbor and has a Master's degree in Applied Linguistics from Grand Valley State University.