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BHS band director Harris surprised by state honor
Bassett High School music teacher and band director Trey Harris (center) displays his Region VI Teacher of the Year award Thursday next to Henry County Schools Superintendent Dr. Jared Cotton (left) and Bassett High School Principal John M. Gibbs (right). (Photo by Ray Reynolds)
Trey Harris, a music teacher and band director at Bassett High School, has been named the 2014 Region VI Teacher of the Year — the first time a teacher in the Henry County schools has received the honor.
Harris is one of eight regional Teachers of the Year in the running for Virginia Teacher of the Year, which will be announced Oct. 11.
The announcement was made in a ceremony Thursday at Bassett High School. It was a surprise in the sense that school division officials had kept it a secret, and, Harris said, he had been told that the band was going to be recognized.
The band and several dozen band parents and school division officials were in the auditorium when the ceremony began at 10 a.m. The band drum line performed several numbers as other band members in the audience cheered.
“There’s nothing like a drum line to get your heart beating,” schools Superintendent Jared Cotton said.
Before Cotton could say much more, a big box wrapped in orange paper with a blue bow (the school colors) was brought up to him to open.
Cotton opened the box and began to dramatically throw out piece after piece of tissue paper. Then he removed a written announcement from the box and read: “Update: The recognition program for the BHS Band has changed as of right now. Gov. Robert McDonnell and the Virginia Department of Education have just announced the 2013-14 Region VI Teacher of the Year is Mr. Trey Harris.”
“Mr. Harris is a phenomenal teacher,” Cotton said. “And he always praises the band, the band boosters and his colleagues for contributing to the band’s success, which is ultimately his success. But today, we are going to celebrate and honor Mr. Harris for his dedication and commitment to you.”
Cotton presented Harris a framed certificate from Virginia Superintendent of Public Instruction Patricia I. Wright and a framed letter from McDonnell.
Harris said he was surprised at the announcement and had thought the ceremony would be “all for the band.”
He thanked school division and BHS officials and staff, assistant band director Scott Allred, parents of band members, the community, his family and especially band members.
“Their résumé is my résumé,” Harris said after the ceremony.
The Symphonic Band and Concert Band programs at BHS consistently earn superior ratings at the Virginia District Concert Assessment and other festivals, according to a Bulletin article when Harris was named Henry County Schools’ Teacher of the Year in March, advancing to regional competition.
In November 2012, the Symphonic Band represented District VI at the Virginia Music Educators Association State Convention.
Bassett’s marching band, winter guard and indoor percussion ensembles have been successful participants at local, regional, circuit, state and national competitions. They have won many regional class championships and finalists accolades with Bands of America as well as being a nine-time Grand National semifinalist.
As of last school year, the marching band program was the six-time Class 5 Open USBands state champions. It also finished in the top five in its class at national championships in the last several years.
The winter guard and indoor percussion ensembles are members of the Atlantic Indoor Association Circuit. They have won medals at Circuit Championships and consistently have been WGI regional finalists and World semifinalists.
Harris, 41, has been the band director at BHS for 18 years. He has received a National Band Association citation of excellence, he said.
Joe DeVault, chairman of the Henry County School Board, said the BHS band for “many, many years” has been a source of pride for the school division. “Trey Harris stepped into a good program and made it better. ... I think he should be Teacher of the Year for (Virginia), and hopefully he will,” DeVault said.
Cotton said the division is proud of Harris, who has a strong work ethic, is dedicated, works many hours (including nights and on weekends) and “inspires students every day.” Cotton said many of Harris’ former students have said that he impacted their lives and careers.
Melany Stowe, the school division’s coordinator of parent and community outreach, said Harris’ “passion for teaching and music shines through everything he does,” and she praised him for his dedication to students and their families.
Harris does “a phenomenal job” and “students love him,” said BHS Principal John Gibbs.
Drum Major Jessica Morris, a senior, said, “He’s done so much for me,” and he’s “like a father figure.” She said Harris helps students, whether it is with counseling or assisting when they are having trouble playing a piece of music.
“He works harder than anybody that I know,” she said. “He puts all of his time in the band. He always takes care of us.”
Band member Carla Lackey, a senior, said Harris is “very motivating. He knows how to push people in a good way. He makes me strive for something bigger.”
Band member Jordan Carter, who is in the 10th grade, said Harris “cares about our well-being. That means a lot to us and our parents.”
Kim Beckner, mother of band member Dustin Beckner, said Harris takes time to work with students and families, “the kids enjoy everything he does,” and he is “a fine role model.”
Candidates for regional teacher of the year honors submitted portfolios highlighting their accomplishments, educational philosophies and community activities, according to a news release from McDonnell’s office. A panel, including classroom teachers, representatives of professional and educational associations, the business community and 2013 Virginia Teacher of the Year Kathryn B. Galford of Chesapeake reviewed the portfolios and selected the eight regional teachers of the year.