LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Efrain Casillas

Position: Band Director
School: Porfirio H. Gonzales Elementary School
School District: Tolleson Elementary School District
City, State: Tolleson , AZ

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Efrain Casillas was nominated by his superintendent, Lupita Hightower.

Mr. Casillas is a miracle worker and tireless educator. He starts his day at 6:30 A.M with the mariachi band and travels to three schools within the district during the day to teach concert, jazz, Latin jazz, piano lab, and marching band.

Many of his students had never played an instrument before his class. Now, they are able to play multiple instruments and move from the mariachi and concert bands to the marching band. Many of his students continue with band in high school and college, and some of them even major in music!

Students are asked to perform over 40 times a year, which is quite the number for an elementary school band. Last year, Mr. Casillas's mariachi band won the 'Community Choice Award' at the Tucson International Mariachi Conference. The marching band has been selected to play at the Fiesta Bowl Parade for the 2nd year in a row.

"We are very proud of our students and the impact Mr. Casillas has made in their academic and daily lives," Hightower said. "I have been in the field of education for over 20 years and have never seen a Band Director like Mr. Casillas.  He truly makes magic happen!"



Comments (45)


Judy Rivas Posted over a year ago

Even though I am not teaching music, I enjoy exchanging musically-based conversations with Mr. Casillas in the teacher's lounge! I love hearing about the events that are coming up, and bouncing ideas and strategies off of him. He even considers students who are not attending the district YET! My sons will most likely be at P.H. next year and Mr. Casillas and I are already chatting about them participating. (He gave me a strategy for improving trombone embouchure when practicing with my son at home). He goes above and beyond the role of teacher. He is a mentor to any student who tries any of his classes. He loves music, seeing music growth in his students, and is passionate about making a diverse impact through different music genres (mariachi, marching, and jazz). He also brings latin flavor along with him, and it shows in his music education background. It is a PLEASURE to work with Mr. Casillas! He even encourages staff with music backgrounds to participate and use their strengths as musicians to enhance performances within the district! This gives even MORE meaning to the term, "lifelong learners!" I am definitely still a musician at heart, and Mr. Casillas helps bring that out in my daily teaching and interactions at work.

Eva G Posted over a year ago

As a parent of 2 kids in Mr Casillas's music classes, I appreciate all his dedication & hard work. Both my kids are very shy & quiet, but when they're playing an instrument or, when my daughter sings in the Mariachi group, you wouldn't think that. My daughter is one of the singers in the Mariachi group & Mr Casillas's dedication to having my daughter improve her vocal skills is amazing. She is also in his Jazz, Latin Lazz, & Marching band, which means she's in school from 6:45-4:15, but she doesn't mind it at all because she enjoys it. My son just started last year, and just like my daughter, they are always telling me what instruments they will be playing in the future because of the desire & enthusiasm to continue in his music classes. Mr Casillas is dedicated & the results in the students performance is the proof. He believes in their success and I've heard him on multiple times telling them "When you grow older & become professional musicians..." He is showing them he believes in their talent and makes sure they believe in themselves as well.

Jennifer Rocha Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas has taught me many things about music. I knew nothing about music when I first joined his music class and now I know so much. He’s a amazing teacher and I’m very happy to have him as a teacher and as a friend.

paul staples Posted over a year ago

great teacher, great guy - really knows his stuff and the results prove it!

Alexa Posted over a year ago

Mr.Casilla has taught me so much in the past two months and it’s not even half the school year. I can’t wait for what comes next

Tianna Griffin Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is both knowledgeable and passionate about the music program in Tolleson. Students are always engaged and excited about learning music and playing various instruments. He has practices before, during and after school, what dedication. He is known and respected in the community. Mr. Casillas sets high expectations and students work really hard to meet and maintain those expectations. He creates an experience that is un-matched. He supports and nurtures students and they respect and admire him because of it. His music programs is one of the best in the State, and it is definitely the best one I’ve ever had the privilege to witness.

Angela Cordova Posted over a year ago

As an employee for the Tolleson Elementary School District I have witnessed the profound impact Mr. Casillas has on the students and the music program. His musical influence shines through the talent he has helped create. The band and Mariachi group are a true reflection of his talent and genuine nature.

Viviana H. Posted over a year ago

You are an amazing teacher to me, my brother, and other students. I enjoy playing the violin! Thank you for everything you do.

Carima Posted over a year ago

El maestro es un excelente

Isabela ortiz Posted over a year ago

Mr.casillas is the best teacher ever becuse when ever we get stuck on something or don’t get the music he helps us.i think he definitely deserves this.

Paula Ortiz Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is truly devoted to his students. I am so glad that he is being recognized for his selfless and tireless work with all his students. I volunteer in the morning with the Mariachi band, and have witnessed first hand how well he handles instructing multiple instrument to an overwhelming amount of students. The students all respect Mr. Casillas and follow his directions. He starts practice at 6:30a.m. before school and manages to continue to instruct at two other schools throughout the day. Mr. Casillas shows up everyday and works with each student until they master an instrument. He has the students learn two or more instruments, as well as trains them in singing. Student become diverse in their ability to perform and learn discipline. He not only teaches music but gives life lessons and tries to prepare them for a future in music. The students are exposed to either an academic future in music or a professional one. No one is more deserving of the honor of the Life Changer of the Year Award than Mr. Casillas.

RICHARD CASILLAS Posted over a year ago

I don't know the man personally, but I know how highly my nephews speak of him as a educator and a mentor. Due to his encouragement and guidance they have both developed a love and apriciation for music and are dedicated to mastering thier instruments. I'm glad he's there for them and facilitates this creative outlet for them to enjoy. Keep up the great work.... And no, we are not related, he just has a cool last name.

Erica Navarro Posted over a year ago

Before my kids joined Mr.Casillas music classes they did not know how to play any instruments and thanks to Mr. Casillas dedication my kids as well as many other children are learning how to play multiple instruments. Due to all the great accomplishments and amazing job that he is doing Mr. Casillas is well deserved of this award #LCOY

Ashley Hernandez Posted over a year ago

Thanks for teaching me how to play a violin. You deserve that award

Viviana Huerta Posted over a year ago

You are a great teacher to me

Alejandro Valenzuela Posted over a year ago

As a former student of Mr.Efrain Casillas, I respect him and his teachings very much. His intense work ethic is driven by nothing less than passion. The skills I have acquired through only one year of his teaching has dramatically impacted my life. I have participated in numerous performances in marching band and orchestra around Arizona. Through his direction I discovered my drive for music. The talent that he has unveiled for me as well as hundreds of other students in the past years demonstrates his effective teaching styles. If it weren't for Mr.Casillas, I would not have pursued music in University as I plan to now. Nor would I be able to accomplish learning Snare and Alto Saxophone to a collegiate level. Thanks to him, many students live happier, make smarter choices, and dominate the world of the arts.

Marci (Atkinson) Fischer Posted over a year ago

He definitely deserves this! He did a lot for the district when I was there, and it looks like he does even more! Congrats Efrain!!!

Allison Abrams Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is an amazing asset for TESD to have! His tireless work to improve and enhance our students' lives and education knows no bounds. He is an inspiration to anyone who meets or hears about him. I am truly honored to be able to work in the same district as such an amazing educator. #LCOY

Daniela ramirez Posted over a year ago

Mr.casillas is a amazing music teacher all his students have become really. Hard working intelligence students...Mr.casillas never gives up on his students my son plays the clarinet and is top leader he helps other students that are just learning how to play music thanks to Mr.casillas my son keeps amazing us more and more each. Day

Mandy Fierro Posted over a year ago

Thank you, Mr. Casillas, for helping all of our treasurers explore their many talents. Because of you both of my girls are learning to play the violin and I couldn’t be prouder of their success!

Mullenbach Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas has done more than just helped students musically. He has given students the confidence to be more than what they think they are capable of and an outlet to expressive themselves. I have many former students who are under Mr. Casillas direction. The way these students from all walks of life and ethnicities have blossomed in their confidence in themselves and their excitement for music is a true reflection of Mr. Casillas himself.

Audra Damron Posted over a year ago

My daughter has had the opportunity to experience Mr. Casillas's teaching talents during summer school for the past 3 years, during which she learned flute, violin, and further advanced her clarinet abilities. He teaches with a steady hand, supportive mindset, and views all students as capable of success. He truly makes a difference in all of his students' lives and beyond and is more than deserving of the Life Changer of the Year award!

Raquel Delgado Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is an awesome music teacher. My son Daniel Castellanos really enjoyed his lessons, he didn’t complain about waking up extra early for music practice. Although my son is no longer attending his classes, he continues to have that passion for music and enjoys it very much. All this is thanks to the wonderful Mr. Casillas.

Rafael Ramirez Posted over a year ago

He has done an amazing job my daughter learned to play the violin and loves getting up early to attend his class in the morning making a big difference in many kids lifes.seeing her smile and happy to do something she never though she could says a lot about Mr Casillas.

Allison R Posted over a year ago

I believe Mr. Casillas has made a big difference in some of my foster kids life through his music and dedication he gives to each student. Giving students 100% all the time.Making them believe in their self thank you for all your hard work.

Veronica Vasquez Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is a talented educator and an incredible human being. He has high expectations for all students and works tirelessly to support each and every student.

Eddie Escobar Posted over a year ago

You talk about being awesome, being a role model, multitasking everyday, supporting each student to be succesful, planning and organizing 101 concerts and always doing it with a smile on his face and a 110% positive attitude! Thats is just a couple of the attributes Mr. Casillas has and knows every student by name! I know for a fact he has change the lives and life outlooks of quite a few students in the past couple of years! He is simply incredible

Brenda J. Martinez Posted over a year ago

I have had the opportunity of seeing the amazing transformation of students during summer school sessions. I have witnessed the unbelievable growth, maturity, and positive attitude among students who take Mr. Casillas' music/band classes. In four short weeks Mr. Casillas can bring out the musician in every one of his students. These are students who have never held an instrument in their hands! It is truly wonderful and exciting. These young artist are so lucky to have Mr. Casillas! We are very lucky to have him in our district teaching and inspiring the passion and love of music!

Gisselle Herrera Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is not only a phenomenal Band Director, but also a wonderful human being who truly cares about students. He dedicates his early mornings, after school time and many weekends developing the talents of our students. Our students know that he believes that each and every one of them is capable of success, no exceptions! He is a mentor and a role model and is loved by staff and families alike. Mr. Casillas is truly a lifechanger and deserving of this award!

Isabel Del Toro Posted over a year ago

I, like Dr. Hightower have never seen a Band Director like Efrain Casillas before. He is very dedicated to his students and works tirelessly from sunup to sundown. I try to attend the concerts as often as I can because I absolutely love the way his students have flourished and I can see the excitement in their faces as they perform each and every time..This off course due to Mr. Casillas's efforts and encouraging words to his students. My granddaughter and grandson both have had the pleasure of being his students and they have both told me that thanks to Mr. Casillas, they now know a lot more about music and how enjoyable it is to participate at concerts and parades. Efrain Casillas has truly proved to be a huge asset to the Tolleson Elementary School District. It is with great pleasure and enthusiasm that I submit this nomination for the Life Changer of the Year Award. Thank you, Mr. Casillas!!!!

Patricia Nandin Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas, has been such an inspiration to the youth at the schools. I am a member of the Tolleson Women's Club and Mr. Casillas is always willing to lend a hand with our organization and allowing the students to preform for our events. He is definitely an asset to the community and the youth of Tolleson.

Teresa Posted over a year ago

He really deserves this he is awesome and wonderful with our children

Dulce Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is the best music teacher I have ever had. He has helped me so much, I didn't know how to play a violin but thanks to him and his teaching now i am playing with professional mariachi groups. He helped me get over my stage fright. I loved going to his class everyday I learned something new. I am now in the Tolleson union high school marching band. I miss being in the band with him I was doing mariachi, jazz and marching with Mr. Casillas I miss putting on the uniforms and being with the guys in the band. Well all I can say is that he is the best, kind-hearted man you'll ever see and with a passion like his with music and his students....it....it just can't compare with anyone else. Anyone could become a music teacher and just teach but he just has a special connection with his students and will do anything for them.

Claudia Espinoza Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas does an outstanding band director. He does a phenomenal job teaching students how to play various instruments. He works tirelessly to ensure each student is ready for every concert. His dedication and commitment to student success has him working every day for long hours with all the students. It is truly amazing to see how a student starts with absolutely no knowledge of how to play an instrument to performing within months for different events. We are proud of his work and are proud to have him in our community. The many opportunities provided for all students who sign up for one or more of the district bands are made possible by Mr. Casillas' belief in all student's capacity to learn and succeed. Mr. Casillas truly is a "life changer".

Dr. Quebec Logan Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is awesome on so many levels I am unable to articulate the extent to which his awesomeness has positively influenced the school district, schools, students, and community in which he works. I will say, however, that if there is anyone deserving of such a distinction it is Mr. Casillas, as he has worked tirelessly for years to cultivate the love of music within our students, to insure that music programs stay alive and well in our schools, and to educate the public on the power of music as a tool in the educational process. Congrats on the nod Mr. Casillas and keep up the good work! Thanks for the impromptu jam session as well. It was much needed. :-)

Conner Campini Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is a blessing to our district and our treasures! His hard work is changing the lives of the young people in our community daily. The leadership, support, and inspiration he gives to the students of Tolleson cannot be understated.

Wendy Norton Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas does a fantastic job with our students. He travels around to all four schools in our district. This year he opened his program to the sixth graders, giving them the opportunity to learn an instrument. Efrain has taken our district band to many different events including the Fiesta bowl, and parades. The Mariachi band won honors at the competition they participated in last year. Our students learn to play a number of different instruments including guitar and piano. Mr. Casillas is a very giving teacher of his time and his own money to offer our students the wonderful experiences throughout the years.

Jessica Posted over a year ago

Truly inspiring and well deserving. #lcoy

Gloria Arriaga Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is a wonderful asset to our school. He brings out the best in our students. He encourages students to be and do their best. As we all know in these times where there is strife and a tremendous amount of stress in everyone's life including our students. It is great to know that our students have a positive, entertaining, and fun place to come together to learn and build friendships. These values and friendships can last them a lifetime. There is not greater reward than that!

Gloria Quintero Posted over a year ago

Dear Mr. Casillas, Congratulations! You definitely deserve this award, you are very passionate at what you do and you install that in our students. They look up to you and you are a role model to them. Thank you for being a life changer and making a difference in our students lives! Way to go, Gloria Quintero

Cassidy Calder Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas for a very long time was the only music teacher within our school district. Once I was hired, he was not only enthusiastic to have another music teacher on board, but he has been an invaluable resource not only for me but my students as well. Unofficially, he has acted as a mentor and made my transition from college to career significantly easier. When I joined, we spent an entire day going to all the schools within our district and collecting supplies for my music room that he was generous enough to let me borrow. He has welcomed me into the program and district with open arms. As for our students, Efrain spends so much time not only instructing them with careful consideration, but also getting to know each student. He knows their skill level, their strengths and weaknesses. He always seeks to build them up, and provides numerous opportunities for them to perform within their communities throughout the year. Efrain is totally deserving of this award. Thank you for your consideration.

Cynthia Olivarez Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is a great music teacher. My daughter Marisa Gonzalez loved attending his music band class. I have never seen a great educator that loves what he does. He is determine to teach any youth who is willing to learn.

Aaron Lodes Posted over a year ago

truly and inspiration for all ages in our school district #LCOY

Sonia Posted over a year ago

Mr. Casillas is known for making the impossible, possible with a winning attitude, and finding talent among all students who express an interest in music. He doesn't only teach music, but he tirelessly provides students with opportunities to perform at different events/venues. His students enjoy a well rounded experience. It is quite amazing to see his students perform especially because most of them have never played an instrument before. It is my hope that Mr. Casillas is recognized for inspiring the next generation of musicians by planting a spark in them at an early age.

Angelica Velador Posted over a year ago

LCOY... I have the honor of working alongside Mr. CasilI have the honor of working alongside Mr. Casillas. His admiration and dedication of working around the clock in order to ensure Tolleson Elementary students benefit from his expertise, inspires me. He demonstrates effectiveness in teaching young people through music and the ability to inspire positive attitudes among students, the school, and the community. He developed, maintained, and supported an effective balanced program in music education. He has made an outstanding contribution to music education by active involvement in our local district and professional organizations. He demonstrates the highest ideals and professional integrity. Mr. Casillas tends to not take all of the credit when recognized for all that he does. He adds... “The credits to go to his students and support team.” Thanks to his teaching ability Tolleson Elementary School District is in high demand for performing at local events. This year marks two years of acceptance to march in the Fiesta Bowl parade. Last year he helped our student win 1st place at the Tucson Mariachi National conference. Big goal he has is to take Tolleson Elementary School Students to perform at Disneyland in May. This gives the International experience of performing in front a large diversity as well and fun time. He is all about making it fun for the student’s best interest. Mr. Casillas is a huge asset to our school district and is deserving of this award and recognition. It is with great pleasure that I respectfully submit this comment in trust you select to nominate Mr. Casillas for the #LCOY award. With pleasure, AVelador.