The Juno Awards recognize the best and brightest in Canadian music each year, and for 2023, that included University of Lethbridge alumna Heidi (Fellner) Wood (BEd/BMus '01) as the show took over Rogers Place in Edmonton earlier this month.
A choral music teacher at Joane Cardinal-Schubert High School in Calgary, Wood has a hat trick of nominations for the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, a prize that's been honouring Canadian music educators since 2005. The teachers up the for award are nominated by students, parents and colleagues, recognition that Wood says has been very humbling each of the three times she's gotten the call.
"Each time these nominations have come up, it's had a slightly different flavour. With parents and students stepping forward to write letter, through that process I actually read all of them before they're submitted as a courtesy, and it's amazing to see the impact," Wood says.
"You know that things are going well in the classroom and that kids are enjoying it, and you hope you're making a difference, but to actually see tose words in print is pretty special."
Wood says because each nomination has come from a different group of parents, students and staff, the letters have become treasured momentos.
"It's a lovely collection of artifacts over the years. Whenever you're feeling down as an educator – because it happens – you can go back to those moments and know you're on the right path."
While she didn't win at the ceremony on March 13, Wood says the validation that has come from the process each time has made her feel like a winner.
"So often, as music teachers in particular, we're islands in our buildings. We're not part of the math department or the English department where there's a collective of teachers that get together and plan and create rubrics and opportunities; we tend to be by ourselves," she says. "It can be really isolating, and so when these opportunities come up you suddenly feel seen, and that's really special."
The only nominee for the MusiCounts award from Alberta, Wood was able to connect with other educators nominated for the award – as well as artists from across the music industry – in the days leading up to the Junos, a process she says was like professional development on steroids.
"It's just been really cool. It's a whole lot of attention that I'm sure not used to," she says.
"You just put your head down and you're only looking at the kids in front of you, so this has been really, really fun and affirming."