Saturday, January 24, 2009

Torrington educator gets national technology award

BY JIM MOORE REPUBLICAN-AMERICAN - Saturday, January 17, 2009 3:12 AM EST

TORRINGTON — A music technology education program that Wayne Splettstoeszer built at Torrington High School, byte by byte, has earned national recognition.

"He not only does great things with the kids, he also shares that," said Thomas Rudolph, a teacher in Pennsylvania and president of the Technology Institute for Music Educators, which is recognizing Splettstoeszer as a role model and innovator for music teachers nationwide.

A growing list of high schools and colleges use Splettstoeszer's lesson plans, assignments and exercises which he posts online for fellow educators to use, Rudolph said.

The kids are keen on him, too.

Kasey Graves, 18, a senior in Splettstoeszer's introductory-level music technology class, said her teacher is "pretty sick," which translates from teen speak to "cool."

Graves and junior Mitchell Wimmer were among many students who crowded the school's computer lab Friday, putting the finishing touches on projects that mixed digital photography with original soundtracks created by computer software.

"I can learn how to write music, and be my own producer," said Wimmer, who plans to make a career in music.

Splettstoeszer, 38, who also teaches traditional instrumental music, will accept next month the 2009 Mike Kovins TIME Teacher of the Year Award during a conference in San Antonio, Texas. The award, Rudolph said, is competitive and reserved for a teacher who leads the way on the cutting edge of music education.

"It's a huge honor," Splettstoeszer said.

Splettstoeszer's technology class is a tough get. There is a waiting list every year for Music Technology I, and his yearlong Music Technology II class is always full.

Students in the advanced class learn how to produce radio commercials and film scores, using software and synthesizers. Students in the introductory class set poetry and short story excerpts to music, often writing original work that brings English into the mix.

Interim Principal Marsha Olsen said that kind of integration is the way of the future.

"That's one of our focuses that we're going to be working on next year," Olsen said. "Mr. Splettstoeszer is at the forefront of that."

Splettstoeszer said the electronic approach allows him to reach a generation of students who come to school armed with iPods and laptops. The elective courses also open the door to music appreciation for students who may have never picked up a traditional instrument.

"I've had valedictorians sitting next to future music majors sitting next to special education students," Splettstoeszer said. "All of them can have success."

Splettstoeszer started the technology program from scratch 13 years ago, learning as he went.

"My first couple years were learning five minutes before class and going in and teaching it," he recalled.

"There was no one I could go to. Music technology was in its infancy."

Splettstoeszer said he's just going with the flow.

"The kids of today are using technology in every aspect of their life," he said. "We need to reach them."

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