The ARIA Award nominees still at school
When NSW schools were shutdown in April, Wilcannia Central School music teacher Sarah Donnelley knew online teaching wasn't an option for most of her students who had little to no internet connection at home.
So Donnelley and her fellow teachers had to think of novel ways to keep their children studying - after all, her music program had boosted attendance by 13 per cent and she was determined not to let any of her students slide.
As well as literally "connecting" the students with nine kilometres of caution tape when they picked up completed homework and dropped off new texts, the young music teacher got the kids involved in an ambitious music video project.
"We wanted to give a message to our kids that even though we had to stay at home, that we were still connected," Donnelley said.
"So we came up with the concept of a music video and recruited the radio station who played From Little Things Big Things Grow on the air, inviting students to send in video selfies of themselves singing along."
Her community nominated her for the 2020 ARIA Music Teacher of the Year award, with Donnelley making the final four short-listed from more than 200 submissions from around Australia.
The other nominees including Thomas Fienberg from Evans High School in Blacktown, NSW, Kathryn McLennan at Virginia State School in Queensland and CJ Shaw from Palmerston District Primary School, ACT.
Each teacher was surprised with the news of their nomination by an ARIA Ambassador, with Christine Anu joined by Paul Kelly and Kev Carmody - the songwriters of From Little Things - singing Donnelley's praises.
"We really love what you've done with the song, getting the kids involved," Kelly told the overwhelmed teacher.
Her fellow NSW nominee Dr Fienberg runs a successful program at the Blacktown high school called Solid Ground which aims to reconnect Indigenous students with their cultural heritage by writing and recording their own songs and staging productions they perform throughout the State.
Mrs Mac, as she is affectionately know at the Virginia State School was "surprised" by The Veronicas, who were greeted by a huge cheer when they "crashed" a concert band rehearsal to present the teacher with her nomination.
"Mrs Mac is loved by every single student in that classroom; when they were playing, you could see the pride they hold and they really respect her," The Veronicas' Lisa Origliasso said.
"And they're really talented."
C.J. Shaw at the Canberra school has written hundreds of songs - including the Homophone Rap and the Times Table Rap - to help children understand complex or challenging subjects.
The Telstra-assisted award was launched by ARIA and arts learning organisation The Song Room four years ago to spotlight the importance of music education in engaging children at school.
"Our music teachers nurture the next generation of musicians, and students who study music achieve better grades, better school attendance and increased mental health," ARIA CEO Dan Rosen said.
Voting opens today for the award via https://www.aria.com.au/music-teacher.
Originally published as The ARIA Award nominees still at school