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Shannon Park's Kathleen Radspinner named MMEA Music Educator of the Year

The sound of elementary singers and instruments is music to Kathleen Radspinner’s ears. Even after nearly 35 years in District 196, her passion for music education remains fine-tuned. Earlier this month, she was recognized for her commitment and named a 2020-21 Music Educator of the Year by the Minnesota Music Educators Association.

Radspinner first began her career in District 196 at Rosemount Elementary in 1988. She eventually moved to Shannon Park Elementary in 1990 where she has been the vocal music specialist since. Her creativity has been the inspiration for many school concerts and musicals, and at her direction, students have performed several times at the Mall of America rotunda.

“The most rewarding aspect of being a music educator is connecting with students through music, celebrating small daily achievements, as well as large all-grade performances,” she said. “I also cannot fail to mention how rewarding it is to hear from former students who fondly remember their elementary music experiences, some who have made careers in music themselves, and some who are now parents of children I teach.”

When COVID-19 forced schools to close in March 2020, Radspinner said she had to radically rethink her process of teaching. However, she remained focused on the mission of instilling each child with “the spark to discover and connect with music.” To ensure students had the support and resources to stay engaged with music while in distance learning, Radspinner brushed up on her technology skills.

“A silver lining has emerged in the close connections we are able to form with individual students as they create and respond to music through videos and audio recordings,” she said. “I have been moved to laughter and tears many times to see formerly reserved students confidently sing, improvise and present profoundly meaningful responses to music through online platforms.”

A group of students pose with Kathleen Radspinner.

Kathleen Radspinner, back-center, in a pre-pandemic photo with Shannon Park students.

As student transitioned back to in-person learning, Radspinner continues to explore one of her successful music teaching innovations, which is using movement and drama to make listening to music an exciting and engaging activity. 

“My students have loved dramatizing the soft and loud dynamics of Beethoven this year,” she said. “One of the surest signs of music learning success in the classroom I see as we learn about musical elements through play is a first-grader asking, ‘Can we do that again?’”

Radspinner was celebrated with other music educators during a virtual ceremony on Feb. 12. 

“Receiving this award is indeed a huge honor, and brings to mind the many talented District 196 educators, administrators, paraprofessionals, school support staff, parents, extended family members, and. most of all, the students who inspire and support me every day,” she said. “I am awed by the talents of my district music educator colleagues, as well as music educators throughout Minnesota and the country.”