Troy, Mo. - Throughout two decades of teaching music at Troy Buchanan High School, Eric Blankenship has become one of the most honored - and most beloved - educators at the school.
In 2020, Blankenship was honored as the Lincoln County R-III Teacher of the Year, however, his fellow teachers statewide bestowed him with an even higher honor, as he was recently honored with the 2021 Missouri Music Educators Association Dr. Wynne J. Harrell Outstanding Educator Award.
“I am honored to have been nominated for this award, and flattered that the Missouri Music Educators Association chose me as this year’s recipient,” said Blankenship, a 24-year educator who began his teaching career as the the assistant band director at Park Hill High School in Kansas City before arriving at Troy Buchanan.
The award is peer-nominated, and then voted on by the Missouri Music Educators Association Executive Board of Directors. MMEA solicits nominees from their membership across the state.
Blankenship said in order win such an award, it takes a village - and that village consists of students and assistants who are former students.
No one runs a village alone.
“It has been a wild ride and I am flattered by all of the recognition. However, I think a music program is so much more than just one teacher,” Blankenship said. “Our music program is a combination of great kids and inspiring staff members. I believe that our entire music staff is doing an exceptional job, and I am just proud to be a part of it. Our high school music and middle school music department has eight full time teachers, and I am proud to teach alongside all of them each day. Of those eight teachers three of them are actually Troy alum and former students of mine.
“I think it is a testament to our music programs that we have built in Troy that our graduates not only choose to study music, but also that they want to come back and be a part of our program as educators.”
When Blankenship sees this award, he sees all of his current and former students. He also said teaching is not about winning honors, but changing lives.
“I think there are a significant number of teachers in both our district and across the state that are worthy of this award,” he said. “I am not really concerned with, and instead, just want to be sure to show up every day and help provide the best music education I can for the students in our community.
“As a long time Troy R-III teacher and resident of Troy, I don’t really see this award as something I have earned, but rather a recognition of all of the outstanding current and former students I have had the opportunity to work with in our community.”
Even after 20 years in Troy, Blankenship said his mission is no close to being finished. More lives can be shaped through what he has to offer young people.
“I believe that music is an integral part of everyone’s lives,” he said. “I believe that no matter what career path a student chooses, the arts (music, drama, or visual arts) should be an essential part of every student’s education.
“The arts not only help students learn skills that they can use throughout their lives, but also provide them the opportunity to grow emotionally and become more culturally aware of the world around them.”