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People: Nancy Flanagan

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To some people, it might be music to their ears to be named 'Michigan Teacher of the Year.' But Nancy Flanagan, M.A. '83, put music in many people's ears to win that distinction for 1992-93.

A seventh grade teacher at Harland Farms Middle School in Brighton Township, Flanagan has been an outstanding band and vocal music teacher in the Hartland Consolidated Schools for 17 years, taking a program with a dozen kids to one that attracts hundreds every year. 'I was surprised, shocked and I guess humbled would be the best word,' she says. 'When I think of the thousands of great teachers out there, I'm truly amazined. It is the greatest honor anyone could ever receive.'

Nancy says her mission is to bring beautiful music to as many people as possible and she emphasizes a hands-on approach that really works with children. She currently has 325 students and they put on 25 performances a year, a schedule that has kept her 'swamped and spending most of my time extricating myself from things I promised to do.'

Flanagan credits her father, Jay Tjapkes, with instilling her confidence. 'He just said, 'You're good,'' she recalls. 'And he gave me the opportunity to prove it.'

Indeed, he re-mortgaged the family home in Muskegon to buy her a new flute. She also gives much credit MSU. 'It was a wonderful experience,' she recalls. 'Like many teachers, I was there in the summers, when the campus was beautiful, green and quiet. My favorite teacher was Tim Little. He was so enthusiastic and boundless in ideas I took him again.'

Nancy has one pet cause, and that's for schools to emphasize the arts more. 'We should spend more time,' she reasons, 'because they teach kids to create.'

In Japan, she observes, students between 9 and 14 all learn to play a musical instrument. Explains Nancy, 'Research shows that music stimulates both sides of the brain and helps unite the two.'

Author: Robert Bao

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