Todd Eckstein received the 2022 Alachua County Public Schools’ (ACPS) Teacher of the Year award at the Robert W. Hughes Teacher Recognition celebration on Thursday evening.
Eckstein, the director of instrumental music at Lincoln Middle School, was announced as the district’s newest top teacher and will go on to represent ACPS in the Florida Teacher of the Year program, the district reported in a press release.
Eckstein has taught music to middle and high school students since 1998 and has been at Lincoln for the last 15 years. Under his direction, bands and ensembles have earned state and national recognition and top ratings in performance assessments, along with performing at many local and state events. More than 30 of his students have qualified for All State bands and orchestras.
Eckstein is a talented musician in his own right, having performed and recorded professionally. He says he wants students to experience ‘musical joy’ in their own ways.
“Participating in music has the ability to engage students in ways that are wholly unique to the human experience,” he said in a statement. “Music can profoundly impact a person and I hope to share the start of that journey with my students.”
One of Eckstein’s students, 8th-grader Miles Smith, paid tribute to him at the recognition program
“I always look forward to his class,” Smith said. “He’s made my middle school experience so much more enjoyable, even during the pandemic.”
During his speech at the celebration, Eckstein said teachers have a responsibility to provide students with the passion and skills to engage with the wider community.
“I do that through music, to spark something creative, a side of a young person that they didn’t know that they had inside of them,” he said.
Eckstein was one of three teachers chosen as finalists in this year’s recognition program, who were in turn among 39 ACPS teachers nominated by their schools. The other finalists included Nicole Duncan, a first-grade teacher at Rawlings Center for the Fine Arts, and Kendra Vincent, an English teacher at Buchholz High School. All three spoke at the event and were introduced by current or former students.
This was the recognition program’s 30th anniversary. In attendance at the celebration was Robert Hughes, who established the program and after whom it is named.