Music Will teacher, Zachary Arenz, smiling with a group of his students. They are all holding ukuleles.

Teacher Feature: Zachary Arenz

Zachary ArnezWe’re excited to introduce you to 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year, Music Will educator Zachary Arenz. He has been teaching Kindergarten through 6th grade music at Flower City School 54 in the Lyell-Otis neighborhood of Rochester, New York for the past 12 years. 

Zachary says he always dreamed of becoming a teacher, influenced primarily by his mom’s career in education when he was a child. He also felt at home in his high school’s music department, which made music and teaching a natural pairing. He says, “I dreamt that one day, my classroom would be that same place for students; somewhere that students felt safe and were able to do something that they just loved doing.”

Alison Schmitt, Zachary’s mentor, had encouraged him to attend the Modern Band program, but he dragged his feet because he didn’t have any experience with the instruments the program covers. When he realized that the discomfort he was feeling was the same thing his students go through every day as they learn music, he finally made the decision to get a bit uncomfortable himself and enrolled in 2021.

One of his favorite memories was with his first Modern Band group when he was teaching five boys that were struggling with different aspects of being in school. Through music, they were able to encourage each other to succeed, overcome their nerves, and then ROCK their end of the year concert! Zachary says, “I saw them taking their band selfie after the show and they were just so happy! It might be a core memory for each of us!”

As many teachers can attest, when Zachary first became a teacher he felt uncomfortable and out-of-place at times. But now, when asked about becoming the 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year, he says, “This award is proof of my growth personally and as a teacher.”

For his students, which come from an area with high crime and poverty rates, there are many days where content must come secondary due to meeting his students’ basic needs like food or clothing — and sometimes even more importantly, meeting their need for an empathetic ear. He makes sure his students know he cares about them, which means the world to every one of his students, clearly illustrating his positive impact and why he’s beyond worthy of becoming Teacher of the Year!

Outside of teaching music, Zachary is a two-time Team Trivia Champion, plays bassoon in the Genesse Valley Wind Ensemble, and he enjoys spending time each day practicing Spanish and French. He also oversees host families and exchange students through a local study abroad program.

You can follow Zachary on Instagram, X, and LinkedIn. Help support teachers like Zachary make a difference in their students’ lives by donating here. If you are a teacher and would like to learn more about our Modern Band approach and professional development opportunities, check out our Educators Page and get in touch!

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