Greg Van Winkle, Band and Orchestra Director at Milwaukie High School in Milwaukie, Oregon
Nominated By: Christie Nelson (parent)
Greg Van Winkle is one of those special teachers that you always remember. My son had "Mr. V" as his band teacher in high school over ten years ago. Mr. V not only is a great teacher, but he motivates his students to do well in school and in life and earns the respect from the students and their parents. As parents, we attended all the band performances--whether concerts, competitions, parades, games, etc.--and even chaperoned a trip to Disneyland for a band competition. We witnessed first-hand how he interacts with the students and how he can communicate effectively, sometimes only with a look. In 2006, while traveling back from a competition, the bus that Mr. V and the Milwaukie High School band were on caught fire on I-5. Everyone survived but the instruments were not as lucky. With only seconds to respond, Mr. V was able to get all students to safety. Whether it is a normal day in class or an emergency along a freeway, Mr. V has the respect from his students, parents, and the community. Under his leadership, his students excel and become good citizens--both in school and in the community. Our son graduated in 2006, but last night we went back to the high school to see the football game and especially to hear the pep band. The students were different but the respect shown to Mr. V was the same. Mr. V is one of a kind. Especially in today's world, it is refreshing to see a teacher making a difference in students' lives. Thank you, Mr. Van Winkle! You are one we'll never forget.
Congrats, Greg, from all of us at K103! Get to know Greg Van Winkle:
What inspired you to become an educator?
I began “teaching” in my high school years out of necessity. I was appointed to be section leader of my section and was determined for us to be the best we could be. Upon graduating I was hired to teach that section. From those experiences I felt really good about the journey. Taking people that want to do something and don’t know how to get there, to being there. It is absolutely the journey.
What do you like most about teaching?
I really enjoy seeing kids get from point A to point B...growth I guess. But Even better is watching kids grow from unsure and timid about music AND life, into confident young adults ready for what’s next.
What has changed the most since you began your career in education?
What’s changed most are family dynamics and state driven expectations. They are somewhat incongruent.
What would you like parents to know about your job?
Parents to know, hmmmmm. My “job” and all other teachers’ jobs are demanding. Period. More than the best empathetic parent would know. For the most part we are doing the best we can, in a gazillion ways, to teach our subject to your kids AND help them become good people.
Share a favorite story about your years in education.
A favorite story. There are many.
When I began at Milwaukie HS the band program was down and out, and had been for a while. Through a ton of hard work by the students that year, the jazz band went to a well respected jazz festival and won their division. On the bus ride home I listened in to the students’ conversations. They were hootin’ and hollerin’. And then someone was loudly saying, “Yeah...now we can talk!” “Whoa!” I thought...How are these guys going to handle success? Seconds later the same guy ( a leader in the group) said, “Okay but just a little bit then we gotta be cool.)
Things were gonna be okay.