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FMEA seeks to spotlight the outstanding work and accomplishments of Music Educators in the earlier stages of their teaching careers who are making an “immediate impact” in their schools, communities, and students. Through the power of music education, these ambitious FMEA members influence positive change, create amazing musical experiences for their students, and help enrich Florida's music education community.

Let us brag about you! Please submit the following form and materials for yourself or a colleague who exemplifies these criteria.

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Amanda Goldberg

Meet Amanda Goldberg, the choral director at Wellington Landings Middle School in Palm Beach County!

Since taking over the program in 2021, the school’s choral program has tripled in size. Participation in FVA & ACDA events is a priority for Ms. Goldberg. Every one of her students participates in MPAs, resulting in impressive ratings for her many ensembles. While juggling a lively school program, Ms. Goldberg serves as the assistant director of the Girl Choir of South Florida and is also an active church musician. In her three years as a music educator, she has already presented at state and regional FMEA & ACDA conferences. Ms. Goldberg’s love for learning is infectious. She spends her free time attending concerts & observing rehearsals, all because she’s on a quest to grow as an educator. She creates a nurturing atmosphere in her classroom while setting high expectations, focusing on music literacy and proper vocal technique. The foundation she provides her young singers empowers her students to soar!

Thank you, Ms. Goldberg, for making an immediate impact on your students, community, and music education in Florida!


Photo of Amanda Goldberg

Brittany Hawthorne

Meet Brittany Hawthorne, the choral director at Oak Ridge HS in Orange County!

Mrs. Hawthorne has quickly established herself as a transformative force in the music education realm. In just two years at Oak Ridge, her dedication to growth and excellence has propelled her program to new heights. Her active participation in conferences, All-County events, and the Music Performance Assessments (MPA) showcases her commitment to continuous improvement.

Under Mrs. Hawthorne's guidance, students have flourished, achieving remarkable success at the MPA and earning a Superior Rating in only her second year at the school. Her immediate impact is felt not only within the school but also throughout the county. The genuine bond she shares with her students and their mutual passion for her and choral music is unmistakable and inspiring.

Thank you, Mrs. Hawthorne, for making an immediate impact on your students, community, and music education in Florida!



Photo of Brittany Hawthorne
Photo of Brittany Hawthorne

Katie Thomas

Meet Ms. Katie Thomas – Music Teacher at Yates Elementary School in Hillsborough County! Katie is in her fifth year of teaching at Yates Elementary, where she also serves as Specials Area Team Leader and SAC & Parent Family Engagement Chair for the school. In 2023-2024, Ms. Thomas received the Hillsborough County Elementary Music Educator’s Council (HCEMEC) "Rising Star Award," which is presented to one music teacher yearly who demonstrates excellence in their 1st through 5th year of teaching. Service to the music teaching profession is also a big part of what makes Ms. Thomas great. She is currently on the Executive leadership board of HCEMEC, and has served as one of the Florida Music Education Association’s “Emerging Leaders”. Creating meaningful music-making opportunities for her students is of great importance for Ms. Thomas, as her students participate in All County, All State, and a variety of community music endeavors. With a focus on creating life-long musicians, Ms. Thomas also partners with her feeder schools to create a trajectory of continued learning and music-making for her students.


Photo of Katie Thomas
Photo of Katie Thomas

Angie Duenas

Meet Ms. Angie Duenas – Orchestra Director at Vero Beach High School in Indian River County! Ms. Duenas currently serves as the Director of Orchestras at Vero Beach High School and Gifford Middle School in Vero Beach, Florida. In her first year at Vero Beach High School, the orchestra has grown in size and pride, made Superior Ratings at Solo & Ensemble and District Concert MPA, and the Philharmonic Orchestra had their first opportunity to attend State Concert MPA since 2019. 

Prior to her appointment at Vero Beach High School, Ms. Duenas was the Director of Orchestras and Piano Instructor at Bridgewater Middle School. During her time at Bridgewater Middle School, the orchestra program tripled in size, and made appearances at district events after a five-year hiatus. She also worked as a sectional coach for the Florida Symphony Youth Orchestra and served as a coach for the Orange County Public Schools Middle School All County Orchestras during her time in Central Florida. Her students consistently received Superior Ratings at Solo & Ensemble MPA as well as Concert MPA.

As a freelance violist, Ms. Duenas has enjoyed a wide variety of performance opportunities, including with the Treasure Coast Wind Ensemble and currently with the Vero Beach Chamber Orchestra. Ms. Duenas graduated Cum Laude in 2020 with a Bachelor of Music Education, where she studied viola under Dr. Pamela Ryan and music education with Dr. Kasia Bugaj. She holds professional affiliations with NAfME, FMEA, FOA, and ASTA.


Photo of Angie Duenas

Jennifer Luechauer

Meet Ms. Jennifer Luechauer – Band Director at James S. Rickards Middle School in Broward County! Ms. Luechauer has been working to build the band program at James S. Rickards from the ground up, literally. When she began at the school, the roof had just collapsed, and all the grade levels were dispersed across three separate campuses. Knowing the value of band education, Jennifer made it her mission to reach all of her students by commuting every day to each of these campuses. Oftentimes, she was required to teach in a shared space without instruments since they were still in a collapsed building. During the day, Jennifer taught in a shared portable with the school’s I.T. manager, and in the afternoons, she went alone into the collapsed building to retrieve instruments and clean them for her students. By the end of the year, Jennifer had engaged all of her students in music theory and music games, and introduced them to band instruments. She went on to take students to District Solo and Ensemble, managed to earn an excellent rating at District Concert Assessment and built her band program up to over 170 students. Recently, Jennifer was the recipient of the Sigma Alpha Iota Fort Lauderdale Alumni Chapter Outreach Grant to replace music lost in the building collapse, and the National Sigma Alpha Iota Philanthropies Inc. Grant to replace damaged and stolen instruments because of the collapse. Her persistence is admirable and through all the tribulations the world has thrown towards the program, Jennifer rises above it all for her students.


Photo of Jennifer Luechauer
Photo of Jennifer Luechauer

Hayley Christie

Meet Hayley Christie - Chorus Director at Howard Middle School in Marion County!

Mrs. Christie, now in her third year leading the chorus at Howard Middle School, has revitalized the program that faced challenges during the pandemic. She has guided students to impressive achievements, including performances at All-State, the Marion All-County Choir Festival, and various local events. Under her guidance, student retention has consistently improved, and Mrs. Christie is grateful for the program's remarkable progress. She is currently pursuing a Masters of Music Education from Florida State University with the goal of continuous improvement as an educator so that she can better impact the school and community.


Photo of Hayley Christie

Victoria Senko

Meet Victoria Senko – Orchestra Director at Deltona Middle School in Volusia County!

Ms. Senko, is the Orchestra Director at Deltona Middle School, where she showcases her passion for music education and an impressive background as a violinist. Over the past two school years, she has overseen a remarkable transformation, most evident by tripling the enrollment in the orchestra program. Ms. Senko's dedication to the field of music education is evident through her involvement in prestigious programs like the FMEA Emerging Leaders program and the Ohio State String Teachers summer workshops. She has also served as Chair for the Volusia All-County orchestra showcase and actively participated in the American String Teachers Association conferences. As a professional violinist, Victoria has graced multiple professional orchestras, and she's made it a personal mission to showcase her students' talents within the community. Victoria Senko is undeniably an invaluable asset to Volusia County Schools and a driving force behind the success of our Florida Music Education Association programs. Her commitment to nurturing young musicians is truly inspiring.


Photo of Victoria Senko

Alex Burden

Meet Alex Burden – Band Director at Labelle High School in Hendry County!

Mr. Burden is currently in his third year as the Band Director at LaBelle High School in Hendry County. Since taking over the program at LaBelle in 2021 he has doubled the number of students enrolled in LaBelle High School's band program, improved upon ratings received at MPA events, created a second concert band, organized a parent support group, created new opportunities for his students including the establishment of a Winter Guard, and hosted a marching band festival at LaBelle for the first time. Under Mr. Burden’s leadership, students at LaBelle have achieved at a consistently high level at Marching, Concert, and Solo and Ensemble Music Performance Assessments. Congratulations to Mr. Burden for making an immediate impact at LaBelle High School, and to his students for their many achievements!


Photo of Alex Burden

Matthew Spindler

Meet Mr. Matthew Spindler – Band Director at Riversprings Middle School in Wakulla County! Matthew is in his 3rd year as a Florida Music Educator. During this time, he has increased the enrollment of his program and pushed his students to achieve at a high level. Mr. Spindler has been active in his community and has taken his students to perform for local elementary schools and school board meetings. Mr. Spindler has taken his students to perform at the FAMU Wind Band Festival and even a Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp baseball game! Mr. Spindler has been a fierce advocate for his program and music education in his community, which resulted in the school district allocating funds for new instruments for his program in 2023-2024.

Thank you, Matthew, for making an immediate impact on your students, community, and music education in Florida!


Photo of Matthew Spindler

Taylor Gelb

Meet Ms. Taylor Gelb – Chorus Director at Silver Sands Middle School in Volusia County! Ms. Gelb is in her 3rd year as a Florida Music Educator, during which time her choir program has demonstrated tremendous growth. Her teaching methods are innovative, creating a nurturing atmosphere where students thrive creatively and academically. Ms. Gelb's commitment to musical excellence is evident in the remarkable growth of her choir and their exceptional performances. Her ability to instill a deep understanding of vocal techniques has contributed to the choir's success and speaks volumes about her teaching prowess.  

Thank you, Taylor, for making an immediate impact on your students, community, and music education in Florida!  


Photo of Taylor Gelb

Daniel Rivera

Meet Mr. Daniel Rivera, music teacher at Hialeah Gardens Elementary in Miami-Dade County! Mr. Rivera is serving in his 5th year as a Florida Music Educator, during which time he has shown great passion and achievement as a teacher. Mr. Rivera had the privilege of conducting the FEMEA Rising Stars opportunity for third graders at the University of Florida, conducting the Orff Ensemble for the Superintendent's Honor Festival in 2024, and guiding the 2024 FEMEA Regional Ensemble. His exceptional work has been further recognized through grants, including the 2023 DCMEA Music Educators Grant and the 2023 Florida Education Initiatives Grant. Mr. Rivera is also the author of "Empathy," an SEL-based lesson book and unit rooted in the Orff Schulwerk philosophy, slated for release in January 2024. 

Thank you, Daniel, for making an immediate impact on your students, community, and music education in Florida!  


Photo of Daniel Rivera

Joseph Bigler

Meet Mr. Joseph Bigler, Chorus and Orchestra Director at Palmetto Ridge High School in Collier County.

Mr. Bigler is in his 7th year as a Florida Music Educator, during which time he has created enriching musical experiences for his students. Under Mr. Bigler’s direction, the Palmetto Ridge Choir and Orchestra were invited last year to perform as part of Walt Disney World’s 50th Anniversary Celebration, and the Choir was just recently invited to perform the National Anthem on National Television for the start of the NASCAR Xfinity Series: Contender Boats 300 Race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Mr. Bigler has also served the Music Education profession in various ways, such as participating in the FSMA Leadership Summit and serving as the District 18 Chairperson for the Florida Orchestra Association.

Thank you, Joseph, for making an immediate impact on your students, community, and music education in Florida!



Photo of Joseph Bigler
Photo of Joseph Bigler
Ms. Katie Thomas, Yates Elementary School