What Diane Shrems expected to be an average Friday night football game in Jenison this fall turned out to be anything but average. She was with her best friend and co-director, Karen Ambs, listening to students sing the fight song for a piece of candy when Karen handed her a stack of letters saying, “I want you to read what everyone thinks of you.”
They were her colleagues’ letters directed to the Michigan Music Educators Association [MMEA] nominating Diane for the prestigious award of Michigan Music Educator of the Year. Diane was overwhelmed to tears with the outpouring of support and kind words.
Fast forward to this winter, when Diane received a call during an especially stressful rehearsal. She told the unknown caller that she was dealing with a crisis and that he would have to call back later. She hung up without another thought to who he was or why he called.
Much later that day, Diane was catching up on her work, only to discover a short email from the President of the MMEA apologizing for disrupting her rehearsal but wanting to let her know that she had been named the MMEA’s Educator of the Year. He added that he should know better than to contact a music teacher during holiday rehearsal season!
Diane loves working in Jenison and has done so for 23 years, calling it the “best job on the planet” and her students “amazing and respectful.” She is humbled by the award saying that, “after reading the letters I realized that it is truly a team award. My team makes me strong; without them I couldn’t be who I am—the team allows us to be the best.”
Co-director of the JPS Elementary Honors Choir and the Bobcat Choir [made up of 100 5th & 6th graders]. Diane’s list of accomplishments is long:
- She also co-directs the vocals for the JHS annual musical and is excited to be part of the Wizard of Oz this spring.
- Presented at the Michigan Music Conference, university general music workshops and the MMEA Fall workshop
- Awarded for excellence by the Jenison School Board
- Served on the Board of Directors of the MMEA
- Regularly a mentor to student teachers
But those awards and recognitions come in second place when compared to “seeing the excitement in kids when they connect to each other with music.” Seeing that interaction is her favorite part of the job, and she is most looking forward to continuing to perform at the new Jenison Center for the Arts. The thought of giving her students the chance to perform on a stage that “is worthy of their talents” and seeing them connect with an audience is a thrill she has long awaited. Diane said she is especially thankful to have an administration that supports the arts and with that, she says, “the sky’s the limit.”
The Music Educator of the Year Award will be presented on Saturday, January 18th at the annual MMEA breakfast and meeting at the Michigan Music conference held here in Grand Rapids. Congratulations, Mrs Schrems! We’re proud to call you one of our own!