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Warm Springs K-8 Academy music teacher honored for making connections through music

PHOTO COURTESY OF 509-J
 - Warm Springs K-8 Academy music teacher Jill Plant says she was honored to be nominated and selected for the Oregon Department of Education Regional Teacher of the Year Award.

Jill Plant strives to make connections.

She connects her young students to music, the students to each other, and the school with the community.

And, as a Warm Springs K-8 Academy music teacher, she loves what she does.

"I love music, and I love how excited they get when we learn new instruments and learn new concepts in music," Plant says. "I love helping students find their voices, whether it's their singing voice or their drumming voice, or an instrument voice, giving them ways to express themselves and use creativity and imagination."

Plant's enthusiasm and work to connect differing cultures has earned her the Oregon Department of Education Regional Teacher of the Year Award.

"Jill Plant is a creative and inspiring music teacher," said Warm Springs K-8 Academy Principal Bambi Van Dyke. "She has incorporated all languages into her winter and spring concerts. Everyone enjoys the concerts she choreographs."

The Oregon Department of Education, in partnership with the Oregon Lottery, recently announced Oregon's 2022 Regional Teachers of the Year. According to ODE, Oregon teachers bring their ingenuity, flexibility, encouragement and expertise to classrooms every day in support of their students. During this global pandemic, teachers have overcome constant challenges requiring transitioning instructional models, developing new ways to create important student connections, learning new teaching platforms and so much more.

"Throughout this year of navigating countless challenges and demands, Oregon educators have consistently come through for Oregon's students," said Colt Gill, director of the Oregon Department of Education. "It is with deep gratitude that we celebrate these 16 Regional PHOTO COURTESY OF 509-J
 - Warm Springs K-8 Academy Principal Bambi Van Dyke helps Plant celebrate her award during a presentation at the school.Teachers of the Year from across the state!"

Oregon educators were identified through a regional application and selection process facilitated by local Education Service Districts. Plant was the top candidate for the Jefferson County Education Service District. Applicants submitted testimonials and letters of support and were assessed on leadership, instructional expertise, commitment to equity, community involvement, understanding of educational issues, professional development and vision by a diverse panel of regional representatives.

Each Regional Teacher of the Year receives a $500 award from the Oregon Lottery and is automatically considered for the honor of 2022 Oregon Teacher of the Year, which will be announced this fall.

This is Plant's fifth year teaching music at the school in Warm Springs, where she teaches general music to kindergarten through fifth graders. She has also taught band to older students there, and she previously taught at Jefferson County Middle School. Plant has been teaching music education outside of schools for more than 20 years. Her main instruments are flute, saxophone, bass, voice and piano.

When she's not teaching or making music, she enjoys hiking, running, biking and kayaking with her family. Plant and her husband, Madras physician Gary Plant, have three children, Emily, 19, Justin, 17, and Amanda, 15.

Plant oversees everything music at Warm Springs K-8 Academy.

"She inspires our students by organizing presentations from the Oregon Symphony through visits to the Young People's Concerts in Portland," Van Dyke said. "The fifth graders are so excited to have this opportunity, they will talk about it for months afterward."

Plant also arranges a presentation to fourth graders each year with the String Quartet from the Oregon Symphony.

"This has created an exciting, treasured tradition for our fourth graders, starting with the Quartet and enjoying the Symphony's anticipation as fifth graders," Van Dyke said.

She added that Plant did an amazing job collaborating with the families and community when the sixth through eighth grade band performed for Veterans Parades in 2018 and 2019.

Plant has had to get creative with student performances during the pandemic. She put together a virtual concert in the winter.

She has been working with the Culture and Heritage Language Coordinators of the Warm Springs Tribes, and with Deanie Johnson, Plant recently led third graders in playing their own hand drums – made of wooden frames with animal skin – as they sang a Native Greeting Song. She arranged for the performance to be recorded, and it was aired on the KWSO radio station.

"The students feel like superstars," Van Dyke said.

Plant says she's honored that someone thought of her for the Regional Teacher of the Year award.

"I'm glad that other people are seeing that the ways that I'm connecting are valuable and beneficial for the students," Plant said.


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