Professional News

Great Teachers 2023: Martina Vasil inspires her music students to think creatively

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (May 9, 2023) — In February, the University of Kentucky Alumni Association honored the six recipients of this year’s Great Teacher Awards. Launched in 1961, they are the longest-running UK award that recognizes teaching. Over the next six weeks, UKNow is highlighting the passionate and accomplished educators who were named a 2023 Great Teacher.

Martina Vasil, Ph.D., an associate professor and incoming director of graduate studies in the UK College of Fine Arts School of Music, is one of this year’s Great Teacher Award recipients.

Vasil is dedicated to educating the next generation of musically gifted minds in the Commonwealth.

“I love learning and love learning how other people learn. I teach using the process of imitate, explore and create,” she said. “I am trained in a special approach called Orff Schulwerk, it follows this process, which allows students to become autonomous and creative thinkers.”

Her research on popular music education, the Orff Schulwerk teaching model, and music teacher education has been published in the Journal of Research in Music Education, the International Journal of Music Education, The Orff Echo, and other leading journals.

Prior to her appointment at UK, Vasil worked in parochial and public charter schools in rural, suburban and urban areas of Pennsylvania. There, she taught general music classes for grades K-eighth and instrumental music classes for grades fourth-eighth. Since 2018, she has continued to teach children in grades pre-K through sixth grade music at the Lexington Montessori School. Vasil is president of the Association for Popular Music Education and serves on the editorial board of The Orff Echo, the national journal of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association (AOSA).

Vasil keeps her classroom lively, finding ways to get students to actively participate and create, noting that one of the best ways to learn is through fun activities. Building this sort of engagement, and having an educational activity that a student can look forward to, can make a huge difference in a student’s motivation to learn.

“Sometimes music is the only reason a student will want to go to school, and that is a great honor to have as a music teacher,” said Vasil.

Initiated in 1961, UK’s Great Teacher Award is the longest-running UK award recognizing teaching. In order to receive the award, educators must first be nominated by a student. The UK Alumni Association Great Teacher Award Committee, in cooperation with the student organization Omicron Delta Kappa, then makes the final selection. Recipients receive an engraved plaque and stipend.

Hear the stories from the 2023 Great Teacher Award winners here.

Great Teacher Martina Vasil.
Martina Vasil, an associate professor and incoming director of graduate studies in the UK College of Fine Arts School of Music, is one of this year’s Great Teacher Award recipients.

As the state’s flagship, land-grant institution, the University of Kentucky exists to advance the Commonwealth. We do that by preparing the next generation of leaders — placing students at the heart of everything we do — and transforming the lives of Kentuckians through education, research and creative work, service and health care. We pride ourselves on being a catalyst for breakthroughs and a force for healing, a place where ingenuity unfolds. It's all made possible by our people — visionaries, disruptors and pioneers — who make up 200 academic programs, a $476.5 million research and development enterprise and a world-class medical center, all on one campus.   

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