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Westby Area High School's Peter Engh named post, Wisconsin VFW District 11 Teacher of the Year

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The Westby VFW is proud to announce that Peter Engh has been selected by both the post and the Wisconsin VFW District 11 as the High School Citizenship Teacher of the Year.

Engh received the award at a district meeting held in Sparta Jan. 8. He received a certificate and $100.

Engh is well known for his professional music and teaching skills as the choral director and for his efforts producing annual musical productions at the Westby Area High School where he has served since 1994. But he is much more than a music teacher.

A music educator is a unique individual who encourages and teaches that love and appreciation of music to others. Peter is such a unique individual in his role as a music educator. He reaches out to all students encouraging their participation in large groups, madrigals, small groups and solo performance. He not only encourages their musical development, he helps them to achieve confidence in their own abilities. Engh teaches life skills as well as music.

The first thing notices about Peter was the students he attracts. In schools, there are “cliques” – students in athletics, fine arts, vocational education are examples. Generally, students in those cliques don’t mix. When you go into Peter’s room, whether there is a class being taught or not, there are always students present from all the different cliques. Students are helping each other with assignments or projects from a variety of curriculum areas, working individually, or just socializing. They feel comfortable and safe in his room. They are respectful of each other, and there is no “horse play.” This is very unusual and tells a great deal about what they think of Peter as a teacher and a mentor.

He teaches the students responsibility and self-discipline – showing up for rehearsals at unusual hours, often on non-school days, and getting along with others, some not normally their close friends. These are essential traits of good citizenship and being a productive employee.

Peter selects patriotic music for performances on special occasions such as Memorial and Veterans days. Watching the students sing those songs, one can sense that they understand the meaning and significance of the words – they’re not just singing a choral piece. They understand the sacrifices made by veterans, many of whom are their relatives. To Peter, veterans and citizenship are special, at least in part because during World Ware II one of his uncles was shot down over the Pacific and is considered “Missing in Action.”

Engh is proud that he has mentored and encouraged five of his students to go on to become choral directors, two have become professional singers with record labels, and many more continue to sing as members in a wide variety of church or other vocal groups. His love of music lives on in their performances.

Engh is planning on retiring at the end of this school year, but his involvement in the community and the music world will not end. For many years, he has been involved with the Future Farmers of America and has served as the State FFA choir director since 1999. He plans to continue in that role. He also will be professionally involved with evaluating new music releases, and will continue his long service as a parish council member and officer as well as serving on the Church Music and Worship Committee at Westby Coon Prairie Church.

His nomination as High School Teacher of the Year is now being considered at the state level.

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