A newsmaker you should know: Music teacher not first in family to receive award
The application for the Pennsylvania Music Educators Association Citation of Excellence Awards is a bit lengthy, but award winner Shawn Funk wouldn't know that.
That's because his friend and fellow teacher, Elaine Goldsmith, nominated him and completed the application with the help of Mr. Funk's wife, Anne.
"I was completely surprised. I didn't even know it was time for the elementary school level this year. That is how far out of the loop that I was," said Mr. Funk, a general music teacher at O'Hara Elementary School in the Fox Chapel Area School District.
He was referring to the fact that the PMEA awards are rotated through the various levels of schooling, with educators in elementary school honored every three years.
The awards recognize outstanding music educators in the state, and Mr. Funk is one of 12 educators to be honored this year. He represents District 1, which includes Allegheny, Fayette, Greene, Washington and Westmoreland counties.
Mr. Funk is quick to point out that he isn't the first music educator in his family to receive this award. His wife won it in 2007 for her work at Carson Middle School in the North Allegheny School District.
Ms. Goldsmith, who also teaches music at O'Hara Elementary School, said that when she learned this was the year for elementary teachers to be honored, she knew she was going to nominate Mr. Funk.
"It was an easy decision," she said. "He is just the complete package -- he just doesn't teach his classes and go home. He is truly a caring teacher and so generous with his time for consulting with students, and he spends a lot of time reading and researching to be a better teacher.
"He is what you want in a colleague, what you want as a teacher and what you want in a person."
For the application process, Ms. Goldsmith collected 22 letters from fellow teachers, administrators and students. Everyone quickly volunteered to support his nomination, she said.
Not bad for a guy who originally wanted to be a high school choral director.
"Then I did my student teaching at Brookville Elementary School and had such wonderful mentors, my whole career path changed," he said.
After receiving his undergraduate degree from Clarion University, Mr. Funk completed his master's degree at Duquesne University. During that time, one of his mentors at Brookville retired and he was hired to fill that vacancy.
"I've never taught at the high school level, and I've never regretted it," he said.
Mr. Funk came to Fox Chapel Area to teach in 1992.
He learned of his award at a surprise assembly at O'Hara Elementary, where the principal announced the recognition.
"It was just wonderful. They presented me with a lovely engraved apple," he said.
Mr. Funk said he is honored and "humbled" to receive the award.
"To be nominated and honored by my distinguished peers -- it means so much," he said.
The Funks live in McCandless and have two children, Rebekah, 14, and John, 10.
Mr. Funk and Ms. Goldsmith will travel to Lancaster in April, where he will receive his official citation of honor from PMEA during the group's annual conference.
First Published March 1, 2012 5:41 am