Los Al Arts Educators Honored by OC Dept of Education


- by Donna Chinn, Los Al Arts; Sally Neiser & Amber Lee, LAUSD

The Los Al school district has a long and rich history of excellence in the arts.  Our strong programs in music, theatre, dance, and visual art are a result of leadership by our many dedicated arts educators.  Earlier this month, the Orange County Music and Arts Educators of the Orange County Department of Education presented their 2014 awards to “honor the accomplishments of teachers who make a difference in the lives of students through arts education”.  LAUSD is especially proud to have multiple OCMAA winners this year.  

Suzanne McElderry – Mrs. Suzanne McElderry received the award for Vocal Music - Elementary because she makes a difference in the lives of students and staff through arts education. In her role as music specialist at McGaugh, Mrs. McElderry makes music come alive in her classroom in part by connecting it to other disciplines and content students are learning.  As a result, students receive a highly rich arts experience in her classroom, but also in their core content classrooms. 

When upper grade students were studying the westward movement, Suzanne wrote and directed a westward movement themed musical.  The knowledge she gained from collaborating 

with teachers led her to create shows for every grade level based on their reading level.  For example, second grade readers read the works of Dr. Seuss.  This year Suzanne wrote a condensed version of  “Seussical, The Musical”.  These shows involve all students in all grades in the arts in some capacity. 

In addition to her work at McGaugh, Suzanne coordinated the “All District Choral Festival” in March, which showcased students from the 6 elementary, 2 middle, and the high school on one stage.  

She joined LAUSD five years ago, but has been teaching music for over 17 years.  Suzanne is a creative and innovative music teacher who lives by one simple motto, “If given the right tools, music can be and should be a part of our daily lives forever!

Justin Padilla – Mr. Justin Padilla of Oak Middle School received the OCMAA Award for Instrumental Music - Secondary, and he was earlier selected as this year’s Teacher of the Year for LAUSD.  Justin has been teaching at Oak for nine years, and in that time has built the instrumental music program from one fledgling band to a comprehensive full-time program that includes multiple levels of jazz bands, concert bands, and orchestra, with more than 200 students.

Under Justin’s leadership, the jazz band was recently selected for the third consecutive time to be one of six middle school bands in the country to participate in the Next Generation Jazz Festival, the education branch of the prestigious Monterey Jazz Festival.  Oak’s concert bands and orchestras consistently receive superior ratings at music festivals every spring.

Justin is visible throughout the District by having his bands perform at school and community events, serving on several committees, coordinating the district-wide band and orchestra festivals, and working with the Los Alamitos Education Foundation (LAEF) fundraising efforts to support all students in the district.

In addition to being a teacher-leader at Oak, Justin accepts numerous requests for student teachers and for music students from CSU Long Beach to observe his classes. He teaches master classes in conducting and jazz studies, serves as the Middle School Representative for the California Alliance for Jazz, and as the Vice President of Jazz Education for the Southern California School Band and Orchestra Association (SCSBOA), which is the premiere music education association in California.

“Mr. Padilla serves as an excellent role model for students and is an advocate for all young people. He is an extraordinary teacher, and we are fortunate to have someone of his caliber working in Los Alamitos Unified,” commented Superintendent Dr. Sherry Kropp.

Coralie Prince– Mrs. Coralie Prince was honored with the Irene Schloepfle Perpetual Award, which is given “for exceptional merit and life-long dedication” to music education.  She is one of the founders of music education in the Los Alamitos School District.  She helped start the district choir over 33 years ago, then established summer enrichment programs, school musicals, and community musical theatre. She helped to write the original Los Al K-12 music curriculum, and its three subsequent revisions. 

Mrs. Prince currently heads the music programs at both Hopkinson and Lee Elementary Schools.  She engages her students with different styles of music, such as folk, jazz, classical, pop, and show tunes, often with accompanying dance moves.  She uses music, dance, and theatre to teach curriculum subjects such as American and California State history.  Every December, she leads and marches with her combined Hopkinson and Lee 5th grade recorder band in the Seal Beach Christmas Parade. 

Coralie directs the 4th & 5th grade chorus at both schools in her own version of musical theatre productions such as “Mary Poppins”, “Peter Pan”, and “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory”.  She firmly believes in being fun and inclusive, so she finds a way to feature all students who have a particular desire or a skill to perform.  For the past 9 years, she has coached the vocalists who sing with the LAUSD Elementary Jazz Combo, which is in conjunction with The Youth Center.

In addition to her teaching duties, she serves on a number of school and district committee, and is the Elementary School Representative to the California Alliance for Jazz.  Coralie Prince is an ardent educator and supporter of the arts and she is inspired by her students’ growing appreciation of the arts.  She says, “ I love to teach, love children, and love music and the other arts.”  Her teaching philosophy is to “be inclusive.  Give students knowledge.  Teach them what’s out there, what’s important, so they can be successful.”  

Los Alamitos Alliance for Arts Education - The Los Alamitos Alliance for Arts Education is one of the Orange County Local Advocacy Coalitions, which was honored with the 2014 OCMAA Chairman’s Award.  It is also part of the statewide California Alliance for Arts Education, which advocates for arts education for every student in California K-12 public schools.  The Los Al Alliance is a group of parents, students, business representatives, educators, artists, and community members who are interested in the arts.  The Alliance’s facebook page displays various arts events in the district. All are welcome to join the Alliance simply by contacting coordinator Donna Chinn at LosAlArts@gmail.com.

This year’s award winners join a list of prior OCMAA honorees of Los Al, which includes David Moellenkamp (Vocal Music), Stacy Castiglione (Theatre), Rikki Jones (Dance), Chuck Wackerman (Instrumental Music), Randi Carp (Vocal Music), and Beverly Chaffee (Music).