Interview With The Recipient of Teacher of the Year Award, Mrs. Conners


Diana Lanza, News & Features Editor

What is your favorite part about being a music teacher? 

There are many wonderful reasons for being a music teacher, but the one that tops them all is working with the kids. It is so amazing to see students grow as musicians throughout the four years that they share with me. There is nothing more inspiring than to see someone who is experiencing music for the first time come out with a passion for the arts by the end of the year. The friendships that the students forge together and the community of music families that work with me each year are very special. We are truly a big family and I couldn’t be happier to work with them everyday.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

I find it a challenge to adapt my teaching style to our ever changing world to meet the standards of today’s educational expectations. Although I try to do my best to present a true musical experience, I find that each year becomes more and more challenging to overcome.

How has your job changed since the beginning of the pandemic?

Technology is one of the biggest obstacles that I have had to overcome since the beginning of the pandemic. Music is all about expressing emotions and communicating a personal response together. Yet, it has been very difficult to find creative ways to have them express themselves – especially on a screen. The limited ability for the students to interact with each other and myself through technology has been a struggle in forming a united sound. The absence of the in-person bond, in addition to trying to acclimate to all new aspects of virtual/hybrid teaching since school began has been nothing less than difficult since the pandemic hit.

What was your reaction upon finding out that you won Teacher of the Year?

I was in complete awe from the moment that I heard the news. Never did I think that I would be considered for such an honor when I’m surrounded with incredible colleagues that are as deserving. I am so grateful that the music program continues to be appreciated.

How long have you been working at FTHS, and what has your experience been like here?

I have worked in the Freehold Regional District for over twenty years. I spent the majority of those years building the music program at Marlboro High School and later came to Freehold Township in 2011. Previously, I worked in two other school districts in NJ and in NY states. Of all three districts, the Freehold Regional District has been my favorite place to work – and most especially Freehold Township High School. I have been blessed by working with professional educators that love what they do and support each other. I have had the opportunity to work with outstanding colleagues and administrators that have grown to be not only close friends but a special family. Freehold Township is and will always be my second home and truly my happy place.

When did you realize you wanted to become a music teacher?

I began taking piano lessons in grade school at a young age. This was the first spark that introduced my interest in music. As the years progressed I began performing in various piano recitals, family gatherings and competitions. When my high school years arrived I began doing a fair amount of accompanying for most of my Freshman year. In my Sophomore year, I was asked by my drama teacher to teach the vocals for our high-school shows. I fell in love with this job and have been doing it ever since. Having that new responsibility allowed me to experience my first insight in teaching. I gained more experience as my high school years progressed by attending music youth programs, All State competitions, playing for graduations and other school functions. After high-school, I attended Ithaca college as a music major. It was not until my junior year when I began student teaching that my enjoyment for teaching kids made an impression with me. It came after I had a taste of my first “concert.” The excitement, the work, the enjoyment that the audience had from seeing the students perform a work that I helped put together… This was one of the best moments of my life. Together with this experience and the caring words of my cooperating teacher afterwards saying, “I have the utmost confidence in you that you will be an amazing teacher,” really inspired me to go this route.

**End of Interview**

I would like to thank Mrs. Conners for all of her genuine, detailed, and wonderful answers in response to my questions! It has been an honor to work with her, and she is totally deserving of this wonderful award.