LifeChanger of the Year Nominee Profile

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Caleb Heaton

Position: Vocal Music Teacher
School: Santa Fe High School
School District: Santa Fe Public Schools
City, State: Santa Fe, NM

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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.

Comments (5)

Russell Fletcher Posted over a year ago

Caleb, congratulations on all of your accomplishments so far in your teaching life, and I know that you will continue to have many in the future! Also, thank you very much for visiting my choir classes at Gonzales, and for your help, support, and leadership. You rock, and best to you for this nomination!

Alicia Dickinson Posted over a year ago

Caleb is a fantastic musician and teacher, we are lucky to have him as our choral team leader in Santa Fe! His students love coming to class and learning from him; they are excited to see him years after having him as a teacher. Mr. Heaton is doing a great job with the choral program at Santa Fe High School and he deserves recognition for his leadership and musicianship.

Carmen Flórez-Mansi Posted over a year ago

So proud of you!! Keep inspiring your students!

April Pickrell Posted over a year ago

Caleb is a dedicated and hard working teacher. He is able to reach his students through music, and during these times, students need music even more. Caleb is a strong leader that will go the extra mile for his students and colleagues. We are very fortunate to have him on our music team in Santa Fe Public Schools!

Terese Kitts Posted over a year ago

Caleb is a Choir teacher who goes above and beyond for his students, supporting them, building one-on-one relationships, and leading with his heart.