His productions are legend for students and the families of Hunter Hills Elementary School and his diligent efforts were recently recognized by his own profession.
Jon M. Oliver, music teacher at the southern Laurel school, was recently chosen as the Kentucky Music Educators Association’s 2019 Elementary Teacher of the Year. Oliver was presented with the award at the 61st KMEA’s Professional Development Conference, held at the Kentucky International Convention Center in Louisville.
Oliver’s adaptations of historic events and people have headlined several musical/theatrical performances at Hunter Hills Elementary, for which is always a packed house of students, parents, grandparents and faculty. He has been named the Hunter Hills Elementary Teacher of the Year twice for his dedication to his job.
Oliver is a native of London and currently works as music specialist for the Laurel County School system.
He graduated from Sue Bennett College, Union College and Eastern Kentucky University with additional graduate hours through the University of Kentucky and the Kentucky Institute for International studies. He holds degrees in music, education and business as well as a Master of Music in Vocal Performance, much of which was completed while living and performing in Europe.
He has been the recipient of the London-Laurel County Chamber of Commerce’s Elementary Teacher of the Year, has twice received the Campbellsville University Excellence in Teaching Award and has been named the KMEA District 10 Elementary Music Teacher of the Year.
Oliver has served on several KMEA committees including General Music K-5 chair, Kentucky Children’s Chorus Coordinator and on the executive committee as well as serving numerous times on the Conference Planning Committee. He continues to work behind the scenes with the Kentucky Children’s Chorus and has conducted numerous children’s choirs around the state.
Oliver was a co-founder of the Southeast Kentucky Music Association All-Festival Honors Chorus where he served as Guest Conductor and Coordinator for over 10 years.
He is a National Teacher Advisor on the Quaver Advisory Council with Quaver’s Marvelous World of Music. He has worked with the Kentucky Department of Education on Program of Studies and revised its core content, serving as a writer for the original Program Review in the arts and most recently serving as one of only 14 Regional Arts Specialists.
Oliver has conducted numerous professional development sessions for teachers and administrators across the state.
Besides his duties as music educator at Hunter Hills, Oliver is also a conductor, director, producer and soloist as well as performing with the London Community Orchestra as a percussionist. He is a business owner in London (Silver Spoon on East Fourth Street) for over 20 years and has served as executive director for a statewide non-profit scholarship organization for over 12 years. He is the past president of the Fine Arts Association of Southeastern Kentucky and currently serves on the board of the London Community Orchestra.
After being notified of the award, he stated: “I was sitting on a plane on the tarmac in Houston waiting to exit and make a connection to my next flight when I received a call from Terry Thompson, president of KMEA. He called to inform me that I had been named the 2019 KMEA Elementary Music Teacher of the Year. I was surprised, honored, and humbled to say the least. This is a huge honor, one I do not take lightly. Having worked with Music Specialists across the state through KMEA and as one of the Regional Arts Specialists with the Kentucky Department of Education, I know full well the incredible work that goes on in music classrooms across our state. I know how hard our music specialists have to work, not only to provide a quality music education to their students, but to foster support for their programs. In many cases, they have to fight the good fight every day just to keep their programs alive. I am deeply humbled by this recognition, and deeply appreciative to the Kentucky Music Educators Association for the award and to District 10 for the nomination.”
Oliver has taught at Hunter Hills Elementary for 25 years at the school and it is his 30th year in the classroom.
In presenting the award, KMEA President Terry Thompson quoted a number of individuals who submitted letters supporting Oliver’s nomination.
In his letter of support, Hunter Hills Elementary Principal Brian Bond stated, “Perhaps the first reason I should explain in nominating Mr. Oliver is his absolute dedication in bringing the arts to underprivileged students. Hunter Hills is a large school (700+), with the largest percentage of free/reduced lunch in the district (85 %+). Mr. Oliver understands that poverty often means children’s exposure to the arts is very limited. To combat this, Mr. Oliver creates a plan for grade levels each year to visit arts-related venues. He also leads a first-class choir, often practicing hours after school without pay. Mr. Oliver is demanding to his students, but will go the extra mile to ensure the most is made out of their musical talents. Last year, Mr. Oliver created the first-ever in Laurel County percussion ensemble for at-risk boys. This team, Thunderstruck, practiced each week after Christmas until performing in front of the entire school! To further support those students who are most at-risk of failure, Mr. Oliver was instrumental in bringing WhyTry?, a resilience-based program for at-risk students, into every students’ curriculum this year.”
In her letter of support, Jeanne Lee, Director of District-Wide Services and Director of the Harlan County High School Choir stated, “Ten years ago, Jon had a vision to start an All-Festival honor choir for elementary and junior high students in our district. I am in awe of the herculean effort such a task requires and Jon handles it year in and year out like the champion of children and music that he is. Over 200 elementary and middle school children participate in the honor choirs each year. Jon organizes the children, the venue, the repertoire, the accompanists and the conductors. He pays attention to every detail with meticulous care. Not only do our students get to experience being a part of an honor choir, Jon arranges for each choir on alternating years to sing under the direction of a nationally known composer/conductor. He is truly a light for not only his students but also for the students of our entire district. I have witnessed first-hand the precision and care Jon takes with this event.”
Michael Wooley, Director of Bands at South Laurel Middle School and a former student of Oliver’s nominated Oliver for the award. In his letter of support, he stated, “Mr. Oliver is very humble, courteous, and respectful to his students and colleagues; all of his students and colleagues respect his character and his dedication to music education. As Oliver’s former student and current colleague, I have witnessed him demonstrate the qualities many look for in a superior educator and mentor. Mr. Oliver is passionate, dependable, hardworking and caring. Mr. Oliver has high expectations for himself and his students. His rapport with his students is outstanding, and his successes are a true testament to his leadership. Mr. Oliver understands what it means to touch the lives of his students in the most positive ways.”
During the awards program, Oliver also received recognition for 30 years of service. Oliver’s wife, Rebecca, and parents, George and Lois Oliver, were in attendance at the awards program as well as former Deputy Superintendent of Laurel County Schools Greg Smith.
Oliver was also supported at the ceremony by numerous music colleagues from Laurel County, District 10, and around the state. Another supporter in attendance was Oliver’s former teacher Jack Walker who Oliver cites as having a profound influence on his life.
Recipients of the annual award receive checks from KMEA for $500 donated to their school music program in honor of the award. Oliver already has plans for the money, and is looking forward to purchasing new instruments for his students as well as additional materials for his bucket drumming ensemble.
The Kentucky Music Educators Association is a 501(c)3 organization consisting of over 2,000 professional music educators at all levels from kindergarten to the university level who are dedicated to the cause of music education in Kentucky. Included are in-service, pre-service and retired music educators. Associated with NAfME: The National Association for Music Education, KMEA serves as a voice for Kentucky’s music educators.