More than two decades of dedication to music started in a small Chilliwack school.
“We sat around the table, there were six grades and six teachers, and they said does anybody know who to teach music? That’s how it started. I ended up doing everybody’s music in the school,” said Gail Evans, the music teacher at École Willows Elementary for the last 20 years.
“I’ve been teaching music in particular for about 27 years.”
Despite her start in the regular classroom the last 25 years of her career are strictly music.
“I love my job. I don’t buy lottery tickets. I love what I do I think it’s a privilege to do what I do,” said Evans.
“I walk into these smiling, energetic happy faces … I’m blessed.”
Evans was rewarded for that love and commitment with the BC Music Educators Association Outstanding Professional Educator (Elementary) Award last weekend.
“Gail’s organizational skills, tireless work ethic and excellent communication with colleagues, students and parents are unsurpassed,” said Marilyn Fox, who has worked alongside Evans for the two decades and was among those who nominated her for the award.
“As well, she willingly shares materials, teaching ideas and practices with other teachers in the district. She has mentored a large number of UVic practicum students and is very active in the local music specialists’ association. She spends endless hours as the principal organizer of Victoria Sings, a biennial celebration of music where elementary and secondary school choirs perform in a series of four nightly concerts.”
Fox credits Evans with professionalism, musicality and rapport with students as well as dedication to quality music education.
Evans credits those like Fox, who retired yet returns to accompany the four choirs Willows boasts.
“She is my partner even after she retired. It should be both names on there. I can’t imagine doing any of what I do without her being my sidekick and to do it being retired is amazing,” Evans said.
“I couldn’t do a fraction of what I do if it weren’t for the staff at Willows.
“We have such supportive administration and teachers.”
“Willows is a dream place to be. The kids there are just amazing kids. There’s so much of what goes wrong in the world around us and when you walk into Willows you see it all going right.
“You see well-loved, well-parented kids. It’s wonderful to work with them. It’s a joy to be in that circumstance.”
She, with Fox’s help, leads four choirs featuring about 370 elementary school-aged children.
Two grade 2/3 choruses and two grade 4/5 choirs each feature roughly 100 students.
“It speaks to the kind of kids that I have. They’re participating well and have a great time. They love what they’re doing,” Evans said.
They also perform at Remembrance Day, do a Christmas concert (now held in the Dave Dunnet Community Theatre), the April school musical, Grade 5 Variety Show in June and Victoria Sings at UVic (a four-day concert series through the school district).
“It’s great fun with awesome kids,” Evans said. “This year there’s an extra performance we do in April with the Victoria Symphony.”
Evans received the award last weekend and is humbled and pleased to be counted among some of the best in her profession.
“It’s coming from the BC Music Educators Association, so these people are all in the trenches doing what I’m doing every day,” Evans said.
“It’s people who do this and know what it means to do this. These are awesome people.”