Position: Vocal Music Teacher
School: Santa Fe High School
School District: Santa Fe Public Schools
City, State: Santa Fe, NM
Music that Describes Caleb
Caleb Heaton was nominated by Lisa Heaton, a family member.
"Have you ever had a teacher that made a difference in your life? Mr. Caleb Heaton is one of those teachers," said Lisa. "This is Mr. Heaton's fifth year teaching vocal music in the Santa Fe Public Schools (SFPS). Since his father and I were career teachers, with 83 years of experience between us, I think it gives us a valid and unique professional perspective."
Mr. Heaton is in his first year as the head of the Santa Fe High School choir department and his third year as the team leader of the choral programs for SFPS. As you can see, the district recognized his talents quickly! Mr. Heaton grew up loving music and playing piano and saxophone. During his freshman year of high school, however, taking an elective men's choir class changed the trajectory of his life. He went on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree from Concordia College in Moorhead, MN. There, he directed a student-created ensemble and sang in the prestigious Concordia Choir.
Mr. Heaton started his formal teaching career at Ortiz Middle School (OMS) in Santa Fe, NM in 2017. In a challenging environment, he grew the school's choir program by 30%. His choirs earned many ones and twos at the Music Performance Assesment (MPA) during the three years he spent there. Ninety-nine percent of OMS students are eligible for a reduced lunch program. He brought motivation and enthusiasm to his classes, making them work while having fun at the same time.
At both OMS and Santa Fe HS, Mr. Heaton led fundraising in order to send his students, for free, to a special camp up in the Jemez Mountains called Camp Hummingbird. There, on a Friday and Saturday, the students got to enjoy the mountain atmosphere and do music workshops with a guest clinician. Some of the students had never been out of Santa Fe and into the mountains. Mr. Heaton said it was such a powerful bonding experience for him and his students, and he can't wait to do it again next year.
After only working with his high school choirs for three months, Mr. Heaton had 18 students qualify for All-State Choir this fall. That feat requires a rigorous set of standards to be met. Students are judged individually in a blind audition. Mr. Heaton successfully coached more students than had ever been selected before, not only at his high school, but any other local high school. Because the All-State expectations are so high, it's of particular note that Mr. Heaton's musicians did so well in the competition.
In Mr. Heaton's first year of teaching at Ortiz Middle School, he was voted "Teacher of the Month." It is an honor determined by staff and students. Recently, he has been nominated as "New and Up-Coming New Mexico Teacher of the Year" by the North Central Music Educator's Association.
"Last week, we were able to attend Caleb's Winter Concert, featuring four separate choirs that he directs," said Lisa. "Afterwards, we introduced ourselves and spoke with the assistant principal, Mr. G. I will share what I recall Mr. G saying: 'We are thrilled to have Mr. Heaton on staff here. He has high expectations for these students, which they need. His class requires self-discipline, which he demands. Mr. Heaton's a great role-model for his students, as he shows integrity and holds them accountable. They really respect him and want to do well for him. He had big shoes to fill, and he filled them quickly. I am his evaluator, and you can tell him I said that.'"
Mr. Heaton also knows how to nurture and challenge his own singing passion and skills. He is currently an active singer in the Tri-M Productions and a paid vocalist in the Santa Fe Symphony Choir.
"It is with great honor and enthusiasm that I nominate Caleb for the LifeChanger of the Year Award," said Lisa.