Berkley High School choir teacher Julie Anne Smith leads the choir group in “How Can I Keep from Singing,” by Gwyneth Walker, after she found out she was named Oakland County Outstanding High School Teacher of the Year.

Berkley High School choir teacher Julie Anne Smith leads the choir group in “How Can I Keep from Singing,” by Gwyneth Walker, after she found out she was named Oakland County Outstanding High School Teacher of the Year.

Photo by Donna Agusti


Berkley choir instructor surprised with Oakland County Teacher of the Year award

By: Mike Koury | Woodward Talk | Published March 26, 2019

 Berkley High School Principal Andrew Meloche talks to his excited choir teacher, Julie Anne Smith, after she was surprised by school staff with the Oakland County Outstanding High School Teacher of the Year award March 22.

Berkley High School Principal Andrew Meloche talks to his excited choir teacher, Julie Anne Smith, after she was surprised by school staff with the Oakland County Outstanding High School Teacher of the Year award March 22.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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BERKLEY — Friday, March 22, turned out to be not just any ordinary day for Berkley School District Choir Director Julie Anne Smith.

Smith was getting ready to start her first class of the school day at Berkley High School when friends, colleagues and administrators began filing into her choir room as a surprise to announce that she’d been named Oakland County Outstanding High School Teacher of the Year.

It was an announcement that brought Smith immediately to tears and brought cheers from her classroom full of students.

“I think when you’re a teacher, you always hear when you make mistakes, but you don’t often hear when you do things really well,” she said. “This was pretty special. This is my passion. This is what I give my heart and soul to, so when I hear I’m doing it well, it’s very rewarding.

“I’m not a crier … but this is worth tears because this is a big deal.”

Smith said she had no idea at first what was going on, but it soon clicked with her that it might have something to do with the award, for which she knew she had been nominated.

The person who nominated her for the recognition was BHS Principal Andrew Meloche, who was excited to see Smith get the “deserving” win; he couldn’t believe she hadn’t won it before.

“I’ve worked with the fine arts department (in the Berkley School District) ever since I’ve been an administrator,” he said. “I’ve overseen it as an (assistant principal) and now as a principal. Julie has just always promoted excellence in everything she does. Everything she expects out of her students has always (been) just excellence and perfection, and her students always deliver.”

On actually being named the High School Teacher of the Year, Smith said, “It means I’m on the right track. It means I’m doing everything I can do for my students.”

One student who appreciates what Smith has done for her and her fellow students is junior Bella Levin. This is Levin’s third year singing with Smith, and she said it gets more enjoyable and fun each year.

“Her style of teaching, she’s super interactive with us and she really cares about us as humans, and that really shows in her teaching and through our music,” she said. “The way she interacts with us and cares about us and makes it known that we’re all so important to her is really special, and you don’t find that in every single teacher you see.”

Levin has seen the choir group get better and better each year under Smith, and she said it’s because they’re inspired to work hard every day because of her.

“Our music is where it’s at because of her,” she said. “If we have an issue or we have some sort of problem that we’re not getting in our music, she finds new ways to solve the issue and help us grow as musicians.”

“We’re just really lucky to have her. She’s a really great person, and this school and this community is all so much better because she’s in it,” Levin said.

Smith has been in the Berkley School District since she was first hired out of college at Eastern Michigan University 21 years ago. In all that time, Smith said, she still has students come back, whether she taught them in kindergarten or 12th grade, year after year to see her.

“They become nieces and nephews to me,” she said. “They become family, and we’re still in touch and they come back and see me and share their achievements with me, and it’s very much a family.”

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