Katie Brauer Morris, a 2013 Doane University graduate and 2009 Centennial High School graduate, was this year’s recipient of the Nebraska Young Music Educator of the Year award, presented by the Nebraska Music Educators Association at its state conference and convention Nov. 21-23.
This is the third consecutive year a Doane graduate was selected by the Nebraska Music Education Association as the Nebraska Young Music Educator of the Year.
Morris teaches K-5 general music at Elliott Elementary in Lincoln, where the vast majority of students come from low income families.
“It’s a place where students love to be at school, love to learn, and love to be loved,” Morris said. “It’s a special environment to be in.”
This is Morris’ first year teaching at Elliott. Previously, she taught at Plainview Schools, Saratoga Elementary and Syracuse Public Schools.
“I started out thinking I wanted to teach high school, but I missed the title I job, being with kids who need something at a different level,” Morris said. “I wanted to work with students that have higher needs. My mission is to use music as a tool to change students’ lives. I get to teach them music, but more importantly I get to inspire them to be better people, and music is the tool in which I get to do that.”
Morris, who majored in music education at Doane, was involved in symphonic wind ensemble, Doane Choir and Jazz Unlimited.
Originally from Utica, she said the music department is what attracted her to Doane the most.
“Dr. (Jay) Gilbert and Dr. (Kurt) Runestad transformed my experience,” Morris said. “They taught me so much about not just loving music but being in a community and creating relationships through music. We were able to travel so much at Doane through the music groups. The music department truly transformed my life.”
“The one thing I think about Katie is how thirsty she is,” said Kathleen Ohlman, assistant professor of practice in music education at Doane. “If there’s a professional development event going on, she’s there. In the classroom she was always prepared, had the best questions and was thinking insightfully about teaching kids.”
The Young Music Educator of the Year award Morris received is given to an individual with outstanding promise in music education.
According to the NMEA, the award recipient must give evidence to excellence in music-making, demonstrate by example the basic principles and characteristics of an outstanding music educator, show creativity, originality and imagination as a music educator, and show evidence of having made and impact on students, the school and the community.
Last year, Doane alumna Megan O’Brien Stroup won the award and in 2017, alumna Maureen Beck Halama won the award.
Stroup is in her fifth year teaching music at Zeman Elementary in Lincoln, and Halama is in her first year teaching vocal music at Wilber-Clatonia after serving as an instrumental teacher at Fairbury Public Schools for the past seven years.
“The NMEA Conference is like a family reunion every year,” Stroup said. “I enjoy being able to reconnect with our professors and classmates because there’s no other time of year when we’re all in the same place.”
In regard to a Doane alum winning the Young Music Educator of the Year award for three straight years, Halama said, “I think it speaks very highly of Doane, the type of professors we have and the quality of education that they are preparing us with. We’re going out and doing great things.”