Educator wins Juno for teacher of the year
Lakewood School teacher wins national award for music teacher of the year
A music teacher at Lakewood School is shining bright after winning the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year award at this year’s Juno Awards.
Jewel Casselman, who has been teaching music for 35 years, was recognized during the live broadcast from Edmonton, Alta. and will receive a $10,000 cash prize, a grant for Lakewood School through the MusiCounts Band Aid Program, and of course, the prestigious Juno statuette.
“I am still flying high on the excitement. It’s a very surreal feeling to win a Juno, let me tell you,” Casselman said with a chuckle.
Casselman said the win was the peak of a month and a half of excitement, as she learned she was a finalist for the award at the end of January, after being nominated in autumn.
“It’s an amazing feeling to be honoured that way. I’m just one music teacher out of thousands across the country and to be honoured as music teacher of the year for Canada is kind of crazy,” she said.
Casselman began her professional life as a medical secretary but, after a while, began to search for something different.
“And it kept coming back to children and music. So teaching music was a logical combination,” she said.
The choice paid off, as Casselman went on to flourish in music education. She successfully advocated for music to be added to kindergarten programming at several schools, and she sits on committees promoting diversity and inclusivity.
With the award, Casselman becomes the first elementary school educator to win — although she has taught other ages during her career.
“With younger students, they’re willing to try anything. They’re very, very open, and they don’t really have a lot of fears. They haven’t built up a lot of anxiety about it,” she said.
That makes for some truly delightful moments, Casselman said.
“I love those light-bulb moments, where they’re just “Oh! I get it” and the excitement on their face … or when we’re doing something in movement and you can really see them feeling the music in their body. It’s very exciting to see that and very rewarding, because I know what I’m doing is making a difference in their lives,” she said.
Casselman said although it’s a busy job and a noisy job, and often because it’s a busy job and a noisy job, it’s a career that has brought her lots of joy.
“I love coming to work every day, and I will miss it when I retire … I see all of them outside on the playground or I see them in the community. And I know them. I’ve watched lots of them from kindergarten, right up to grade five, so I really get to know them very well,” she said.
For the next generation of music teachers, or perhaps those who adore children and music and are seeking a new career, Casselman had this advice:
“Be yourself, first of all. And go watch a teacher … And remember that elementary music is where it all starts.”
Casselman has also collaborated with the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra, is a board member of the Manitoba Orff Chapter, and has been honoured with multiple other professional awards. She was also nominated for the teacher of the year award in 2019, 2020, and 2022.
Cody Sellar is the reporter/photographer for the Free Press Community Review West. He is a lifelong Winnipegger. He is a journalist, writer, sleuth, sloth, reader of books and lover of terse biographies. Email him at email@example.com or call him at 204-697-7206.