Music Educator of the Year Award

In partnership with the Salem-Keizer School District, the Oregon Symphony in Salem has been recognizing outstanding music educators since 1990. The process begins with the nomination of candidates from any area of public classroom music education in the Salem-Keizer School District, including orchestra, band, and choir. Committee members from the Salem Advisory Committee observe the teachers in their classroom setting and select the winner and runners-up.

The 2023–2024 Music Educator of the Year is Cole Haole-Valenzuela from West Salem High School. The Music Educator of the Year is presented with a certificate and is accompanied by a monetary award to be used in support of the recipient’s school music program. The two runners-up, Lisa Rael from Sprague High School and Aubrey Dunham from South Salem High School, will receive a smaller monetary prize to support their school programs.

The Music Educator of the Year Award is dedicated to Karl Raschkes for his outstanding work in the district from 1983 to his retirement in 2011. The current nominees all demonstrate the highest level of commitment to music education just like Karl.


23/24 Award Recipient: Cole Haole-Valenzuela

Cole Haole-Valenzuela was raised in Salem, Oregon, where he was heavily involved in various Salem-Keizer performing arts programs. He graduated from Sprague High School and attended Oregon State University, where he earned a Bachelor in Music Education and a Music Education Master of Art in Teaching. While serving on various NFHS, OSAA, and OMEA boards as a music representative, Cole has consistently strived to amplify student voices and guide discussions toward decisions that prioritize what is best for kids. He has been presented the Emerging Conductor Award from Oregon ACDA in 2019, the Outstanding Early Career Music Educator Award from OMEA as well as the NFHS Outstanding Music Educator Award in 2023. Cole is currently the Director of Choirs at West Salem High School, where his ensembles have performed state-wide and on tour and recently won the 2024 OSAA 6A Choir Championship.

The other nominees for the 2023/2024 season were Lisa Rael (Orchestra Director at Sprague High School) and Aubrey Dunham (Choir Director at South Salem High School).


Past Music Educator of the Year Award Winners

2022/23: Bethea Gliebe, general music, Sumpter Elementary School

2021/22: Jaimie Hall, band director, Straub Middle School

2019/20: Ariana Recher, music director at Wright Elementary in Salem-Keizer School District

2018/19: Jim Charnholm, orchestra, McKay High School; Kimberly McConnell, choir, West Salem High School

2017/18: Karly Schindler, general music, Chávez Elementary School

2016/17: George Thomson, West Salem High; Dr. David Brown, Sprague High; and Andy Thomas, Whiteaker Middle School

2015/16: Anisa Rodriguez Foroughi, general music, Four Corners Elementary

2014/15: Rebecca Couch, choir director, Walker Middle School

2013/14: Steve Phillips, general music, Auburn Elementary School

2012/13: Todd Zibelman, symphony orchestra and band director, West Salem High School

2011/12: Tiffany Gaither, general music, Schirle Elementary

2010/11: Carol Stenson, choir director, South Salem High School

2009/10: Jim Taylor, choir director, McNary High School

2008/09: Ike Nail, band director, West Salem High School

2007/08: Bonnie Gallagher, orchestra director, Whiteaker Middle School

2006/07: Holly Albertson, general music, Gubser Elementary; and Rosalie Karalekas, general music, Rosedale and Liberty Elementary Schools

2005/06: Stephen A. Nelson, orchestra director, Sprague High School

2004/05: Paul J. Mayhew, choir director, McNary High School

2003/04: Janet Romine, general music, Faye Wright Elementary; and Russ Christensen, choir director, Sprague High School 

2002/03: Mary Lou Boderman, band director, South Salem High School

2000/01: Richard Dalzell, choir director, North Salem High School 

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