Teacher of the Year committed to excellence for choral department

NORTH SHELBY – Shelby County Schools High School Teacher of the Year Michael Zauchin has rebuilt the Oak Mountain Choral Department with a commitment to inclusion and excellence.

Michael Zauchin, choral director at Oak Mountain High School, was named Teacher of the Year for Shelby County Schools. (CONTRIBUTED)

Zauchin was honored at the Teahcer of the Year Celebration hosted by the SCS Education Foundation on Dec. 4 at Oak Mountain High School.

A 2006 graduate of Spain Park High School and 2011 graduate of the University of Alabama with a degree in business, Zauchin helped with afterschool rehearsals at Oak Mountain while still in college.

The OMHS Choral Department at the time was under the leadership of Gia Graddy, who Zauchin credits with renewing a fire in him for music and art.

Graddy advised Zauchin that if he aspired to lead a school program he had “to love the kids more than the art product” (Graddy and Zauchin joked that they would make a dream team, and Graddy has become an assistant for Zauchin at Oak Mountain).

After Graddy’s tenure, the Oak Mountain department regressed from a peak of about 200 student participants to about 60 supporting only a show choir.

Zauchin applied for the position of director at the age of 24 and credits then-principal Joan Doyle for “taking a chance on the young kid.”

Patti Cato, parent of a child involved in the program at the time, knew Zauchin and advocated for him, which undoubtedly contributed to his hiring.

“It’s been the most rewarding thing ever,” said Zauchin, who added that he learns much from the students, who make him feel young and keep the work from feeling like a job. “This is kind of like home,” Zauchin said. “I’ve really enjoyed the Oak Mountain community and their support of what I thought this program could become.”

Zauchin went about expanding the department beyond the show choir so that more students could be involved.

Now, there is the flagship Concert Choir, The Muses (women’s chamber and show choir), Oak Mountain Singers (mixed chamber and show choir) and One Voice (special needs choir).

Students from other programs also participate in One Voice so that each special needs student has a peer.

About 180 students are involved in the department.

Zauchin said his goal has been to treat each program equally and to help each student be his or her best by upholding the department’s motto: “Mediocrity is unacceptable.”

He also teaches a crew class for students interested in producing costumes and other technical tasks.

Zauchin said he thinks high school is an important time in students’ developments, so he encourages them to participate in other extracurricular activities, even scheduling rehearsals to give the students flexibility.

The department held its winter concert in December and on Jan. 12-13 will perform The Wizard of Oz. Those interested in tickets should call the school at 682-5200 when it re-opens on Jan. 3.