Greiner receives music education award for excellence
On a recent afternoon, music teacher Richard Greiner was preparing a group of first-graders for a performance on the stage at Archer Glen Elementary.
The kids were divided into pairs and standing in a circle, and because there was an odd number of them, Greiner was the partner of a little boy.
As each pair held hands, he patiently but persistently walked them through their routine over and over, allowing time for a few laughs as well. Then it was time to step down to the risers and run through some other songs.
The kids didn't quite have the whole routine down when they had to quit, but Greiner had a couple more sessions with them to get it polished before the actual performance.
As school ended for the day, Greiner efficiently folded up the pair of risers and rolled them back into his classroom, which is just off the cafeteria/stage. The large room with a high ceiling and huge south-facing windows, which Greiner calls a 'cathedral,' has been his work home for a long time: Greiner has been teaching at Archer Glen since it opened in 1995.
Due to budget cuts, he now is teaching at Edy Ridge too, and he emphasized that Sherwood truly has a districtwide music program.
'The music and band teachers see the elementary program as an essential component of the whole program,' Greiner said. 'I started off as a high school band teacher - a lot of us have had experience in different levels.
'There is an appreciation for the whole music curriculum, and the district and our building principals are very supportive of the music program.'
Greiner has been happy teaching music for more than 30 years and wasn't expecting to be recognized for his efforts, but recently he won the Oregon Excellence in Elementary Music Education Award.
'We were encouraged to attend the annual meeting of the Oregon Music Educators Association, and I had no idea I was even nominated until I won,' said Greiner, adding, 'The awards are more about the profession that the individual teacher.'
Mike Dyer, the Sherwood Middle School band teacher who teaches students coming from Archer Glen, would beg to differ with Greiner.
Dyer nominated Greiner for the award, noting, 'I can easily say that I know of no more deserving candidate than Mr. Greiner… The best testimony to Richard's excellence in teaching is the students I inherit from his program… His students uniformly are musically literate, creative, have well-developed senses of beat and pitch, and understand how music and culture are interrelated.
'Most importantly, his students love to make music, and they love him. Richard accomplishes all of this via a rigorous scope and sequence that addresses all the national standards for music education.'
Dyer listed Greiner's many leadership roles and commitments in various music-related organizations and included with his nomination letters of support from Portland State University associate professor of music Debbie Glaze, Boones Ferry Primary School (Wilsonville) music teacher Bryan Wilkins, and George Fox University professor of music Patrick Vandehey, who hired Greiner to teach elementary methods there.
'Besides myself and Bryan Wilkins, I was really happy to get recommendations from Patrick Vandehey and Debbie Glaze,' Dyer said. 'For them to speak so highly of Richard just confirms why he is such a deserving and humble man.'
In his letter supporting Greiner's nomination, Vandehey wrote, 'Every year I have music education students choose to pursue elementary music education as a career because of their experience watching Richard teach.'
Greiner in turn said that Dyer has been a great team leader for the district's music program for many years, adding, 'We've done a lot of curriculum work that also allows for our individual styles. We believe in addressing the national standards.
'The Sherwood School District deserves accolades for keeping the music program viable. The parents are wonderful, and the kids are amazing. I feel really blessed to be here in this district.'
Greiner took a round-about path to get to Sherwood: Born in Heppner in eastern Oregon, he grew up on a ranch between Condon and Fossil, and attended school in Condon.
'My dad didn't have a college degree, but he insisted all four of us did,' Greiner said. 'My mom had been a teacher in Portland and then in Condon and Fossil before becoming a principal. There were 140 kids in my high school, and the community was very supportive. Students played all the sports and acted in plays - we did everything, so I got all this experience. I was so naïve that I didn't know I couldn't do it.
'I loved music, but I really had no business majoring in music. I was a trombonist and attended the University of Portland for two years before transferring to the University of Oregon to get a degree in music education.'
Greiner taught for 1 ½ years in Washington and then took a year off and went back to Condon to work as a hired hand. 'But it became clear to me that I didn't want to be a hired hand,' he said.
The move back home turned out to be fateful, however, as Greiner met his wife Sheryl, who had been teaching in Condon for four or five years and was planning to leave.
'I got a job teaching music in Condon, and we got married and stayed there five more years,' Greiner said. While there, he got his master's degree in music education from UO.
The couple moved on to jobs in Prineville, where Greiner taught at Crook County High School, and then Newberg, where he taught middle school band.
While there, Greiner met Mike Dyer, who was already the SMS band teacher and suggested Greiner apply for the Sherwood High School band teacher job.
Greiner taught at SHS for one year, then taught beginning band at Hopkins Elementary when it was the only primary school in Sherwood. 'I knew I really liked teaching at the elementary level,' Greiner said.
Pete Miller was the principal at Hopkins who hired Greiner, and when Archer Glen opened, they both switched to that school 'for which I am very grateful,' Greiner said.
Along the way, Greiner earned his Kodaly certification, which required a rigorous four-summer program to complete.
'I don't think I've had a slow week since 1967,' Greiner said. 'No day has ever been the same. Not only do I love the kids, but my colleagues are so passionate and dedicated to teaching kids. They are committed to making a better world - everyone wants the best for the next generation.
'I do enjoy teaching music, and the longer I do it, the more I think it should be listed as a core subject. It sounds corny, but it really is a privilege to teach. I can't imagine doing anything else.'
Greiner and his wife have three children and two grandchildren.