Amy Spears staged a mock school board hearing for her secondary music students to help them better understand issues they could face as music educators regarding music program funding.
Last spring Spears invited the campus to an afternoon rock concert starring non-music majors who she taught to write music and learn new instruments.
And she finds multiple opportunities to integrate student learning with experiential learning in the community.
These are just a few reasons why the United Methodist Church Division of Higher Education has named her this year’s Exemplary Teacher. The award is given to an NWU professor each year who exemplifies excellence in teaching, civility and concern for students and colleagues, commitment to value-centered education, and service to students, the institution, community or church.
Spears, assistant professor of music, has taught at Nebraska Wesleyan for four years. Her primary responsibilities include teaching undergraduate music education courses and supervising student teachers. She also teaches general education courses on writing and diversity.
“Dr. Spears has not doubted my abilities or my potential,” said a music education student who nominated her for the award. “Her simple use of language — ‘when you are teaching’ rather than ‘if you teach’ — motivates and inspires me to continue on my journey in music education.”
“Dr. Spears demonstrates an exceptional commitment to her students, regardless of ability,” the nominator added. “She is a patient and dedicated educator and a great asset to the Nebraska Wesleyan community.”
Her colleagues celebrated her knowledge of pedagogy, her commitment to active learning, and her rapport with students — citing that her enthusiasm for teaching is contagious.
“Dr. Spears’ teaching, service, and scholarship intertwine,” said a professor who nominated Spears. “All three focus on effective curriculum and assignment design and how they connect with diversity and social justice issues.”
Spears is a regular presenter at national conferences throughout the United States including the National Association for Music Education, the Society for Music Teacher Education, Instrumental Music Teacher Educators’ Colloquium, and the Midwest Band and Orchestra Clinic.
But students agree her encouragement of intellectual curiosity, artistic expression and independent analysis will serve them beyond their college careers.
“Dr. Spears is not only concerned about our success as educators, but in helping each student become more responsible, compassionate and accepting,” said another student nominator. “She has inspired me, changed my teaching philosophy, and reminded me that learning is a lifelong endeavor.”