‘My job is to light the fire’

Millsboro Middle conductor wins IRSD Teacher of the Year

At Millsboro Middle School, Arthur Henry believes that celebrating diversity has made his band students grow into better people, while becoming better musicians. That attitude helped him earn the honor of Indian River School District’s Teacher of the Year for 2019-2020.

The announcement was made April 30 at a district celebration of all 16 building candidates.

“Mr. Henry personifies what it means to be an exemplary teacher. He is passionate about his craft and compassionate and caring when it comes to his students,” said one colleague’s nomination.

“Mr. Henry is more than just a teacher to us. He is someone we can trust and talk to about any topic,” added his students.

Henry has taught instrumental music at Millsboro Middle School since 2015, from woodwinds to brass and percussion. Since he has also simultaneously worked at two nearby elementary schools for several years, Henry has taught some students since fifth grade. 

“I can remember the first time they picked up an instrument, [compared] to what they’re doing now, and it’s like, ‘Wow!’” Henry told the Coastal Point. “This is what I get to do for life! It’s pretty amazing.”

Everyday is a learning process, but Henry loves to see students become more confident.

“When they start to do things on their own, that’s when you know — okay, now they’ve got it,” he said. “Because my job is just to light the fire, get the spark going, and then they can take off with it. And that’s what’s happening.”

At Millsboro Middle, “We are a community that, we love our kids, our kids feel comfortable where they’re at, and we meet them where they are,” he said.

Henry said the band program’s success is due to inclusion, which has resulted in growth and better quality human beings.

“Supporting the arts in education is highly important, but equally important is creating a program that supports exceptional learners and honors the diversity of each individual,” Henry said. “The result is a band that is rich with diversity, both educationally and culturally, and a band in which the students actively and intentionally support each other and collaborate together.”

As a child, Henry started on a clarinet in third grade, then moved to his beloved brass instruments, and also plays piano. He now oversees about 160 students, split between the sixth and the seventh/eighth grade bands.

He previously taught band and vocals in the School District of Philadelphia since 2012. Henry earned a bachelor’s degree from Chestnut Hill College in Philadelphia and a master’s degree from Boston University, both in music education.

He also attended The Salvation Army School for Officer Training from 1999 to 2001, earning an associate’s degree in occupational ministries. He received a full ordination as a Minister of Religion and a commission as a Salvation Army Officer, with the rank of captain.

“Mr. Henry embodies what it means to be a teacher with the countless hours that he continues to perfect his own craft in music,” said MMS Assistant Principal Christopher Costello. “He models what he preaches for the students, always striving to have his students succeed. That’s how he measures success for himself.”

Besides the plaque, Henry received proclamations from the Delaware General Assembly, gifts from each school, and funding for classroom supplies.

Although the arts are respected in IRSD, it’s a rare honor for an arts teacher to win the districtwide award. He’ll now prepare a portfolio for state Teacher of the Year competition, which will be announced in October.

“I just wanna thank you all. I’m humbled, I’m honored,” a rather stunned Henry told the audience that night. “And as a band teacher, it’s one of those things I never expected, but I’m very humbled and honored to receive this.”


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Indian River School District has a rigorous selection process for the district winner. Each of 16 schools selects one representative who then submits an extensive portfolio, plus videotaped classroom instruction and a speech on their educational platforms.

“As educators, we chose this profession because we wanted to make a difference in the lives of our students,” said Courtney White, outgoing Teacher of the Year. “Whether they’re 3 or 18, we know that over the school year, we have a daily impact on helping them prepare for their unknown future.”

The 2019-2020 Teacher of the Year winners from each school were: Katherine Bennett of Phillip C. Showell Elementary School; Ashley Broughton of Georgetown Kindergarten Center; Wendee Bull of Georgetown Middle School; Jeffrey Bunting of Indian River High School; Megan Conway of Lord Baltimore Elementary School; Catherine Dorey of G.W. Carver Center; Stephanie Fair of Southern Delaware School of the Arts; Alexandra Fish of John M. Clayton Elementary School; Brian Gloyd of Long Neck Elementary School; Kristopher Guerin of Howard T. Ennis School; Heather Hellens of North Georgetown Elementary School; Elizabeth Illian of Georgetown Elementary School; Jennifer Jerns of Selbyville Middle School; Tracy Marvel of East Millsboro Elementary School; and Robert Weber of Sussex Central High School.

These people don’t just teach, but they inspire their students to learn, said Assistant Superintendent Jay Owens.

“Thank you for inspiring your students. The footprint you are leaving is larger than you will ever imagine,” Owens said.


By Laura Walter

Staff Reporter