LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Chris Gleason

Position: Instrumental Music (Band) Grades 6 & 7
School: Patrick Marsh Middle School
School District: Sun Prairie Area School District
City, State: Sun Prairie, WI

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Chris Gleason was nominated by a colleague who wishes to remain anonymous.

The nominator has had the privilege of working with Mr. Gleason for the past 14 years on the Wisconsin State Comprehensive Musicianship Through Performance (CMP) Project. The CMP Project consists of music educators who dedicate countless hours to providing their peers with substantive, meaningful ways to reflect, learn, grow, and raise the quality of music education across the country. Even in this very elite and thoughtful group of teachers, Mr. Gleason stands out as an especially hard working, highly creative, visionary leader.

Mr. Gleason is an accomplished musician, an excellent school leader, and a true intellectual. He could be successful in any music program and at any level. He has dedicated his career to working with middle school students. At an age when most students are going through significant personal changes, Mr. Gleason is able to create a classroom environment where students produce highly sophisticated examples of critical thinking in projects. His students are able to analyze and articulate what makes a particular piece of literature great and speak to their classmates, parents, and concert audiences about what they can do, know, and value.  Most amazingly, his students willingly dive into at-home practice.

Mr. Gleason's students don’t practice because he chides them or criticizes those that can’t keep up, or even because he checks their practice charts. They practice because they understand why it helps and how their brain actually functions. They practice because they have a teacher holding them in such high regard that he taught them about the latest in brain research. Mr. Gleason assumes these children are capable of responding out of knowledge and love of making music and not simply out of duty or fear, and his music program has grown and thrived, with students who learn eagerly and joyfully. He has become a genuine expert on student motivation, and his dedication to building students who are internally motivated has challenged teachers across the country to examine their own practices, which are often founded more on habits and traditions than on research about how humans actually best learn and respond.

"While drills and sheer repetition might create a great concert, internal desire, engagement, and curiosity are traits that follow students their entire life," the nominator said. "As his students work with well-known composers on commissioned new works for their middle school band, they eagerly contribute because they can clearly see why their efforts matter and know that their individual voice is an important one in a project that is greater than any one person and may have a meaningful legacy beyond their band concert."

While it has become a trend for music teachers to involve students in introducing pieces at a concert, Mr. Gleason goes one step further by encouraging students to discuss, explore, and ponder the ideas of the compositions through a huge variety of creative means.  Mathematical models, movies, board games, dances and visual artistic expressions are all valid ways of communicating in his room.  When there are seemingly infinite choices, and students are encouraged to show what they are thinking in ways that intrigue them, the lines between work and play are blurred in a wonderfully engaging way.

As a long-time leader and past chair of the CMP project, Mr. Gleason not only shares his vast experience and understanding of strategies for creating motivated learners, but brings a huge wealth of research and original work on the area of assessment in music education. For years, most people have assumed that in a music class, the concert is the final assessment. In summer workshops in Wisconsin, graduate classes in the Chicago area, and at national and international workshops, Mr. Gleason has shown teachers that the potential benefits of an excellent music education are far deeper and richer than simply preparing a concert.  

"Chris has the authority to speak to richness beyond the concert performance because he actually lives his educational philosophy," the nominator said. "For teachers who are reluctant to sacrifice any performance quality to allow room for reflection, discussion and contextualization, they can look at Chris’ program to see an ensemble of students who are also exceptional performing musicians. The program is a testament to how far kids are willing to push themselves when the investment level is high."

By working towards outcomes that are rich in skills, knowledge, and affective connections, the result is a classroom of students who are able to realistically identify their own strengths and personal challenges. In contrast to programs that focus solely on playing skills, Mr. Gleason's students, whose natural strengths are in the realm of abstract thinking or connecting their musical understandings to other disciplines, are also finding musical success and satisfaction.

"For the past 14 years, I have seen Chris grow as a teacher, thinker and workshop/inservice presenter," the nominator said. "When he first joined the CMP Project, he was a fantastic teacher of children and a strong leader at our workshops for adult music educators. We spent time discussing ways we could take a workshop that was already well respected to a higher level, and it was clear to us that for Chris, there was no top limit to how good something could become."

Mr. Gleason has continued to grow in his own abilities because of this ability to reflect, notice, research, apply changes, and continue to try new approaches. As a result, he's one of the most sought after music educators in the state, and teachers know if they hear him speak, it will be both practical and inspiring. "Chris has a reputation of working hard and never settling, yet he manages to convey humility and a sense of approachability," the nominator said. "Veteran teachers, as well as new teachers and college students, are unafraid to seek him out and talk about ideas, and Chris is always an attentive listener who is generous with his time."

By being the kind of teacher himself that he inspires his adult students (other music educators) to be, Mr. Gleason is a living example of continuously working to refine and build on one’s own teaching skills. Excellent teaching can make a difference. In a time when it is easy to be discouraged, feel overwhelmed with new initiatives and more paperwork, or despair that there are too many factors outside of the teacher’s control, Mr. Gleason has helped hundreds of music educators to remember what it was that drew them to the profession in the first place.

"His work with the CMP Project, State Honors Music Project, Wisconsin Music Educators Association, countless other organizations, and his own community and classroom gives all of us hope that a great teacher can still make a world of difference," the nominator said.

Comments (29)

Kelly Jenkins Posted over a year ago

This wonderful man IS a life changer. He has greatly blessed the life of our daughter, and has had a powerful impact on countless students and parents in this community. He leads and teaches with pure class, bringing out the absolute best in his students with a wonderful weave of patience, discipline, and encouragement, all this while promoting utmost creativity! Mr. Gleason even takes the time to make beautiful comments about his students on progress reports and call parents when needed to clarify things, while others often don’t take the time to do this. Mr. Gleason has been a wonderful bright spot in our move here from Missouri. He is truly a “beacon on a hill!”

Harrison Buenger Posted over a year ago

I am in 7th grade and in Mr. Gleason's band class. I would not be in band if it weren't for Mr. Gleason because the way he takes real life things to show a band operates and works is so helpful. He's extremely funny and I love how he pushes us. I love Mr. Gleason. He's such a great teacher.

Kelly Jenkins Posted over a year ago

This special man IS a life changer! Since we moved here from Missouri, he has richly blessed our daughter’s life. Mr. Gleason richly blesses the life of each student who is fortunate enough to be taught be him. He leads with pure class, a perfect example of patient but disciplined leadership woven with a wonderful mix of kindness and encouragement. He takes the time to make beautiful comments on student reports and too even call parents to clarify things when other teachers didn’t even bother. Mr. Gleason is truly a “beacon on a hill.”

Sandra Kowalczyk Posted over a year ago

Bravo! Chris Gleason is an enthusiastic, dedicated, and hard working colleague. I've learned so much from his example and experience.

Julie Posted over a year ago

Two of my children have had the pleasure of having Mr. Gleason as their band teacher. He is incredibly motivating and passionate about music and has a way of infusing that in youth. He encourages the kids and builds on their strengths which help them develop the techniques necessary to be a young musician. He also is extremely organized and maintains the best communication with parents that I've ever seen in the school district. As a parent, I always know what is going on as well as receive regular updates on how to talk with my kids about what they are learning in music. Mr. Gleason is exactly the type of teacher you always hope your children will have in school! Thank you, Chris, for all that you do for PMMS, the school district, and Sun Prairie as a whole. You are greatly appreciated!

Colleen Emad Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gleason's positivity and charisma is a breath of fresh air to children. My children and inspired to do their best in music - and this translates into other academic and social areas as well. I am so grateful that my kids had/have a chance to work under his direction as they benefit in some many ways, not just in music! Thanks Mr. Gleason and keep up the great attitude!

Colleen Emad Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gleason exudes positivity and humor to get the kids motivated to play their best! This also spills over to other areas (not just music). As my kids' confidence grew in music I could see this in many other areas of their lives (in and out of school!). He is fair, consistent and always there for anyone who needs him. He is dedicated to music and students. I am honored to know this gentleman who have taught my children with love, understanding and commitment Thank you Mr. Gleason for all you have done, all you continue to do and for future learners heading your way! Keep up the great work and positive attitude that infects many, if not all, children you teach..

Robert Loesch Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gleason is an exceptional teacher who has inspired my daughter not just with his outstanding music education but also to be a better person overall. My daughter always commented on how motivating and inspiring Mr. Gleason's lessons are. We are truly blessed to have Mr. Gleason as a teacher in our school district.

Sheri McLean Posted over a year ago

I have never heard anything BUT wonderful comments about Mr. Gleason. I work for the Sun Prairie Area School District and did not know him personally until my son started band with him this current school year. But I have to say that he gave a speech at our back-to-school convocation for staff in Aug and it brought tears to my eyes. It was so interesting, honest and heartfelt. Truly inspirational!!! I wish him all the best in his nomination. He sincerely deserves it!

Lori Posted over a year ago

My son really enjoys band with Mr. Gleason, he makes it fun, while still teaching him so much! Logan is lucky to have him!

Jalen Whipple Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gleason is a great music teacher. He was the first person to encourage me to play both the trumpet and the viola. He took the time to explain to me that playing two instruments would make me a better musician and help me to learn each one a bit faster. He was right! I really appreciate him for all of his education and guidance.

Lauretta Loesch Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gleason is an amazing person who works extremely hard and is a great teacher. He gives students numerous ways to improve their learning and become better musicians and people. He is encouraging and engaging and helps all students do their best. Mr. Gleason truly is an exceptional teacher. He goes beyond what other teachers do and makes learning the best possible experience for every student. Mr. Gleason is always smiling and helping students learn to love band.

Sarah Borgardt Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gleason is a dedicated, hard working music educator. I am very grateful my son has the opportunity to be his student. Thank you Mr. Gleason.

Jordan Raduechel Posted over a year ago

I think that he should win this award because I have been in his classroom for all of 6th and 7th grade and now that I am in 8th grade I now realize that he was the best teacher that I have ever had. His classroom was just a very fun environment to be in. When we have to get to work we did and when we got to have fun we did. We have gone on many field trips. We made so many memories there. Chris Gleason should win the award.

Dashle Maughan Posted over a year ago

I really liked going to his class last year because he was such a great teacher who created a fun learning environment every day. His lessons were creative and he encouraged us to explore music in new ways. Thank you, Mr. Gleason, for being such a dedicated teacher and mentor.

Becky Lenz Posted over a year ago

Mr. Chris Gleason has been a inspiration to my daughter has she navigates the music world. He has encouraged and supported her efforts for honor band participation. He is kind, effective, and encouraging all in one. My daughter and my family feel privileged to have such an amazing teacher/life changer in our school and in the district!

Jessica L Ealy Posted over a year ago

Mr Gleason has encouraged nny 6th grader to love plating her instrument. He made key changes for out family when when learning of a schedule limitation. He listens and solves. I alleviate Mr Gleason for the major impact he's made in MacKenzy's life. Thank you!

Cammy Wall Posted over a year ago

Our daughter is in 7th grade band with Mr. Gleason this year. She switched from violin to flute this year and we have had many "in band today..." conversations. She is clearly encouraged and enjoys being in band. We were uncertain if she would stick with flute or feel too far behind the other students, but she has jumped right in with much encouragement from Mr. Gleason. Band was a big part of my middle and high school years and I'm thrilled to see our daughter following that. We wish Mr. Gleason continue success as a "lifechanger" and exemplary educator. He is a wonderful reflection on the Sun Prairie School District and the state of Wisconsin.

Martha Fallis Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gleason has been "instrumental" in developing both my sons as musicians. They have both been involved in the extra ensembles and jazz bands that are offered. They have tried more than one instrument and when they listen to music at home they talk about key changes and rhythms articulately. They save their music that they enjoyed playing and pull it out again to play long after the concert. Both boys talk about how Band is important in their lives and has helped get them through middle school. He has changed their lives for the better and has provided a soundtrack for their middle school memories.

Gary Behrens Posted over a year ago

I have 3 children who were fortunate enough to learn and grow under the guidance of Mr. Gleason. During the years they spent at Patrick Marsh, I always enjoyed the band concerts and opportunities to interact with him because he was a motivating teacher who obviously cared about his effectiveness in working with inspiring his students. He helped to make his students better and motivated them to always do their best - even when there were difficult musical pieces to learn. There was always something different and unique with band concerts at Patrick Marsh. Simply put - Mr. Gleason clearly went above and beyond to create a moving musical experience. We saw that in the audience on an occasional basis . . . his students saw it every day. He is VERY deserving of this award. Lastly, I know that a great teacher cannot do this alone and recognition also is in order for the leadership and other teachers that I am sure supported Mr. Gleason's efforts.

Patty Schlafer Posted over a year ago

Chris is the "gold standard" of music teaching. He inspires my work regularly. Thank you Chris.

Vicki Hicks Posted over a year ago

Chris has been a guiding light in how I teach. His ability to support and encourage has given me the opportunity to reach so many through music. He challenges and embraces ideas to make you a better teacher. Thanks Chris!

Peter Devlin Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gleason has been an inspiration to grandchildren, Kyra and Chai Devlin. Both have advanced to a level I would never have imagined. Kyra is first chair sax in the Sun Prairie Jazz One band (second year as first chair) She also plays clarinet, and in one of those challenges cited here, plays bassoon -- thanks to a challenger from Mr. Gleason to teach herself the instrument over 7th Grade Christmas Break. Five years on, Krya has been recruited to play bassoon in the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestra. She also plays cello in the Sun Prairie High School Orchestra and has played at various community events in a smaller ensemble. She has visited several of the institutions of higher education where she wished to study music education to carry on with the importance of the arts. Chai, plays brass and strings. Thanks to Mr. Gleason igniting the desire, my grandson qualified -- as a sophomore -- as the bassist in Jazz One. This is the only year brother and sister are performing in the same band. They've been given a lifetime gift by Mr. Gleason.

Brunella Posted over a year ago

I believe that Mr.Gleason should receive this award because he's the one teacher that got me into music and now music is a very important part of my life. And he didn't just teach music, he let us experience it instead of simply learning. He finds ways to make it fun instead of teaching in a way where its just gathering information. He's such a hard working person yet calm and collected that makes him such a great teacher and its why so many students like him. Because of him, I am now in Wind Ensemble which is the best band at the high school. My journey of experiencing music, started with him, and if it weren't for him, I wouldn't be where I am today. Music makes me such a better person overall that I have so much gratitude and really appreciate him. He might just seem like a music teacher, but he's such a great humble individual that makes him stand out from other nominees.

Sarah Chambers Posted over a year ago

Both of my sons have had Chris Gleason as a teacher. They are grown now, but I saw both of them inspired by Chris's teaching methods. He taught them music, but he inspired thinking beyond the notes on the page. As a parent volunteer in his classroom for several years, I observed Chris make learning fun and achievable for every student and to form lesson plans that brought amazing results by Concert time!

William Winters Posted over a year ago

As an fellow music educator, Mr. Gleason has been an inspiration to helping make more meaningful and purposeful connections to the music we perform in my groups.

Megan Rault Posted over a year ago

Mr. Gleason is a phenomenal teacher and an even greater person. I was his student for two years, but knew him earlier because my brother had him as a band director and I cannot thank him enough for everything he has done for me as a musician and as a person. I started in the 6th grade band on flute and later switched to alto saxophone in 7th grade; Mr. Gleason really motivated me to practice and make habits that I will keep though my years as a musician. Being a fairly competitive person, I remember wanting to be the best saxophone player I possibly could and that motivation, that drive, that want to be amazing would have never been with me if Mr. Gleason hadn’t presented us, as 6th and 7th graders, with opportunities and lessons to help us thrive and want to learn new things. I remember Mr. Gleason talking about “forming synapses” in our brains so the brain could make connections in what we play and he claimed this would help us become better musicians because the consistent practice would make bigger “highways”—stronger bonds between neurons in our brain—and it would be easier to play. He gave us the knowledge to understand that practicing was not just about the concerts, but a long term thing that would be beneficial to us. Being a 7th grader, this did not really stick with me until I got older and started reading about how music has a huge impact on our brains, in a good way. Kids in other states, even cities in Wisconsin, are not taught about synapses and why practicing is important in the long run, they just get stickers or prizes for practicing a set amount of hours per week. Mr. Gleason never forced us to practice; it was an individual thing that we could do or not do. The kids who didn’t practice or take Mr. Gleason’s lessons seriously didn’t have motivation to continue with band, but for the kids who did listen and want to improve, it has made all the difference for us as musicians and it’s helped create that drive that pushes us to not only be a great musician, but a hard-working student. He is a life-changer for me and several others who were taught by him and by those who have met him and I cannot think of a better nominee than Chris Gleason.

Tracie Ruether Posted over a year ago

You challenged Jordan when we first moved to Sun Prairie. I cannot tell you how much I appreciated that. You were the start of band being a HUGE part of both his and my life. Band has shaped Jordan and helped make him the wonderful young man he is. It's because you saw he needed a challenge and you made it happen for him. Thank you!

Kyra Devlin Posted over a year ago

You inspired an even greater love for music in me! 7th grade was the year that I decided that because of you, I also wanted to go into music education and help change people’s lives too. I’m forever grateful!