A Macomb County educator known for using his music classes and choirs to help his students discover their talents while growing as individuals and for using the school’s choirs to help support community groups has been honored with an Excellence in Education award from the Michigan Lottery.
The award winner, James Pecar, teaches vocal music at Chippewa Valley High School, which is part of the Chippewa Valley Schools.
The Michigan Lottery established the Excellence in Education awards in 2014 to recognize outstanding public school educators across the state during the school year.
Winners of the weekly award receive a plaque, a $1,500 cash prize, and a $500 grant to their classroom, school or school district. One of the weekly winners will be selected as the Educator of the Year and will receive a $10,000 cash prize.
Each winner also is featured in a news segment on the Lottery’s media partner stations: WXYZ-TV in Detroit, FOX 17 in Grand Rapids, FOX 47 in Lansing, and WNEM-TV in Saginaw. The segment featuring Pecar will air this evening in Grand Rapids and Lansing, and then on Thursday in Saginaw and Detroit.
Pecar said some of his favorite parts of being an educator are “the moments of discovery! When students realize they are able and powerful! When they begin to form their own relationship with, and passion for, the subject matter, which results in them becoming motivated learners and teachers. Watching students become mature young people and approach a professional level with their work ethic and the attention to detail they give to their music and carry those attributes beyond the classroom into their daily lives.
“It’s a special moment when students realize the joy of using music together for a purpose greater than themselves and they begin to take initiative to serve others in their own lives.”
He said he chose to pursue a career in education because of “my teachers and the experiences they provided. My teachers taught me to be a person through music. I wanted to try to do the same. I know that music has the power to change people.
“I am also very lucky to have parents who supported my career choice. They know that music is something I am passionate about and didn’t flinch when I told them I wanted to pursue it for my career. They went above and beyond to help me in any way possible to make sure I could take advantage of every opportunity possible. They wanted me to do something I love, so they encouraged me in my endeavors.”
Pecar said his students motivate him to do his best every day. “It’s seeing the students grow, stumble at times, then get up and dust themselves off to keep improving. They inspire me! My job is to empower young people to do things bigger than themselves and to help them learn to work as a team through music. I love to awaken possibility.”
A colleague nominated Pecar for the Excellence in Education award, saying “I have never seen a teacher work as hard or care as much as he does.”
“James directs four choirs, teaches music theory, leads a music performance seminar, and serves as both the producer and vocal director of the school musicals. In addition he directs several extracurricular ensembles, including men’s and women’s a cappella groups and quartets. Under his leadership the program has doubled in size,” the nomination said.
“He spends many hours a day in his classroom, sometimes seven days a week. I admire his ambition and his dedication to his students and the entire choir program.
“His most important focus has been using music to teach each student ‘how to be a person first.’ He teaches them to be kind and respectful every day. He’s always willing to listen and help whenever anyone needs him. Students look up to him and look forward to his class.
“He makes choir a safe place for them no matter what is going on in their lives. Yet he has incredibly high expectations. He doesn’t limit his choirs based on what a ‘high school’ choir should be like. He challenges them to go above and beyond.”
The nomination noted that the choirs and soloists under Pecar’s direction regularly earn superior ratings in competition and his students consistently are chosen for the Michigan All State Honors Choir.
“James stays engaged with our community and uses music to make a positive difference. You will often find him and his choirs at board office meetings, special teacher appreciation days and during the holidays singing Christmas carols in our community. He’s led his choirs to make a constant effort to promote awareness and raise funds for local organizations. They host a large concert annually called ‘A Cappella for Autism.’”
Pecar earned a bachelor’s degree in music education from Stetson University, in Deland, Fla. He has been an educator nearly six years, the last five with the Chippewa Valley Schools.
Outstanding public school educators may be nominated for an Excellence in Education award at http://bit.ly/ExcellenceInEducation or through the websites of the Lottery’s media partner stations.
Excellence in Education award nominees are evaluated on the following criteria:
- Excellence – Their work consistently helps students and/or their schools or school districts advance to higher levels of academic achievement.
- Dedication – They consistently go above and beyond expectations to help students succeed.
- Inspiration – Their work inspires others around them to exceed expectations either academically or professionally.
- Leadership – They demonstrate clear leadership skills in their positions with their school or school districts.
- Effectiveness – The nominee’s work has clear and positive results on the educational advancement of students within the school or school district.