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Spotlight Series: 2021-22 ATPE Charles Pickitt Educator of the Year Award Winner Bonnie Anderson

Association of Texas Professional Educators
Association of Texas Professional Educators

Date Posted: 1/10/2023

The ATPE Charles Pickitt Educator of the Year Award acknowledges ATPE members who demonstrate exceptional or innovative capabilities in their respective education fields. Our award winners were announced in July 2022 at the ATPE Summit in Grapevine, and in the Elementary Teacher of the Year category, Bonnie Anderson was chosen for her outstanding work as music director at Miller's Point Elementary in Judson ISD.

In 2010, Anderson switched from focusing on the success of her music program to focusing on using the music program to improve the lives of students through their interaction with the community. In 2016, she started a nonprofit organization, Mojo-Rimba, to make the use and transfer of funds easier.

With the support of Judson ISD, Anderson has been able to bring national training in Zimbabwean marimbas and world music to the district numerous times, and this training brought in participants from across the nation, as well as other countries.

We caught up with Anderson to get her thoughts on education and her career:

What made you want to be an educator?
During one childhood dream-filled day in elementary school after singing my heart out in music class, my second grade teacher berated me for singing too loudly. Instantly, my tender heart deflated. She was unaware that I sang loudly because she had complimented my singing the day before. It was a momentary kindness that I wanted to build upon, not knowing that she would use it to crush me, and she did so effectively. In a matter of seconds, that short but public reprimand stayed etched in my vocal cords for years, affecting my self-esteem and my social skills.

It is ironic, but it was not until I started learning to play the piano that I realized I could be good at something and that I could be worthy of having friends. Music rescued me. This experience caused me to dedicate my life to saving children by using music as a catalyst for success. Through music, all students can experience success at their own level.

What is your favorite part of your job?
I know this may sound crazy, but I love that I get to spend time with 3- and 4-year-olds. Their classrooms are near me. When I have the time, I love to just hang out with them. Their laughter and happiness are very contagious.

What is the most important thing you wish someone had told you when you started your career?
When I first started teaching, I wished someone would have made me understand the importance of picking battles wisely and putting away pride with both students and adults. That would have saved me and my students a lot of heartache.

What is the most important thing Texas educators can do for their profession?
Texas educators need to focus on the positives. Hopefully, we are in education for the students.  No matter what other problems educators are facing these days, we are always able to be there for our students. Nothing can stop us from forming the kind of relationships with our students that have a significant impact on their lives. This should be the main source of satisfaction in our career.

What is your biggest hope for the future of Texas public schools?
My biggest hope for the future of Texas public schools is that everyone involved would be more student centered. Sometimes when I have trouble making a decision, I will stop and ask myself “What is in the best interest of the students?” Then, the decision is typically easy. It would be amazing to see what a school would be like if they got rid of everyone who wasn’t in it for the students!

What’s your favorite Texas vacation?
I am a beach lover, so my favorite Texas vacation is South Padre Island! I love enjoying the pristine beaches and finding shells at obscure locations.

Share a fun fact about yourself.
When I was a kid, I would organize the neighborhood children, and we would perform Christmas music programs.

Congratulations to Bonnie Anderson and all of the ATPE award winners and finalists! To learn more about Anderson and her passion for music, check out our Winter 2021 ATPE News cover story, With a Little Bit of Love and a Whole Lot of Marimba.