It’s been one week since Mairi Cooper was named Pennsylvania’s 2015 Teacher of the Year during the Pennsylvania Department of Education’s Keystone Awards of Excellence program in Hershey. Cooper, an educator in the Fox Chapel Area School District, was one of fifteen finalists who underwent a year long selection process.
Cooper is chairwoman of the Fox Chapel Area High School music department, director of the school’s orchestra and a teacher in the Advanced Placement Music Theory, Orchestra, Piano and World Music classes. She has been with the district for 14 years and her passion for teaching young musicians has been felt far and wide.
“Mairi is a teacher that defies gravity,” says Gene Freeman, Ed.D., Fox Chapel Area School District superintendent. “When you think she has lifted her students to the highest degree, she inspires them to go even higher.”
During her tenure at Fox Chapel Area High School, Cooper has forged a promising new path for the music department. She has crafted innovative curricula, piloted courses and even ensured continuity in musical education throughout the District.
Although Cooper acknowledges the important role that teachers like herself play in the lives of their students, she also knows that kids need more. “It’s not one person who changes any child’s life. It’s a whole school of us,” Cooper says. “If a banker decided to help a family learn how to balance a check book, if a freelance journalist spent two hours a month helping a kid write stories, if every single member of society took two hours to share their knowledge, it would help our children so much.”
Cooper also had high praise for her fellow finalists, especially three other educators from western Pennsylvania including CeCe Kapron who has taught one of the few dance programs in the state at Mt. Lebanon School District for 42 years, James Nagorski of Carlynton School District and James Lucot of Seneca Valley School District. “For me, it’s really important for all of the unsung heroes to get sung,” Cooper says. “This award is really an amalgamation of all the finalists. We’re all in it because we love the kids. That’s what drives teachers every morning.”
Cooper will now go on to become Pennsylvania’s nominee for National Teacher of the Year.
Featured Photo: Mairi Cooper receiving the 2015 PA Teacher of the Year award, Photo courtesy of Fox Chapel Area School District