Champions of the ArtsThe Norah Morgan Award for Excellence in Theatre Arts Education
Honouring Excellence In Teaching
Carousel Players and The Niagara Symphony Orchestra are pleased to offer the annual Champions of the Arts Awards. Each organization recognizes and celebrates an outstanding teacher who inspires their students through the integration of the arts in the classroom, and across the curriculum.
Carousel Players offers the Norah Morgan Award for Excellence in Theatre Arts & The Niagara Symphony Orchestra celebrates a deserving music teacher with the Paul van Dongen Award for Excellence in Music Education. All school principals, teacher colleagues and parent council members are invited to submit nominations for these awards.
Norah Morgan was an influential international ambassador of drama education for both students and teachers for over fifty years.
In 1972, Norah Morgan worked with Des Davis in developing a vision for Carousel Players that continues to inspire students and teachers locally, provincially, nationally and internationally.
The Norah Morgan Memorial Award honours her leadership and influence in enriching the lives of young people through the arts.
Erin Amadio & Tracy Thorpe (2021)
As educators faced a year like no other, and children need arts engagement more than ever, it seemed only fitting to honour two teachers this year. Like Norah Morgan, both Tracy & Erin exhibit the traits of an exceptional leader in drama and arts education for students and teachers alike. As they have been encouraging students to participate in the arts long before school shutdowns, both have shown tireless dedication to bringing engaging drama programming to students – and the community – over the last year of virtual teaching.
Laura Secord Arts Program Lead Bonnie Henderson and Principal Helena Tritchew had this to say about DSBN recipient Tracy Thorpe:
“Over the years, Tracy has often been the only full-time drama teacher in the building. Tracy’s tireless energy has meant running a challenging but accessible theatre program with core Drama and Musical Theatre courses, in addition to directing an active Improv Team, hosting Drama Nights open to all students, as well as providing enrichment opportunities for DNA Drama students through the Shaw Festival and otherwise. She has also written and directed award-winning plays for the Sears Drama Festival and directed multi-award winning Musical Theatre productions every two years that involve almost half of our total school population. The Secord productions bring our whole school community together: from conceptualizing set design, to building it, fabricating props, fashioning costumes, choreographing dance numbers and coordinating musicians, Tracy is instrumental to ALL of these things! Tracy continues to showcase students’ talents and the Arts, in spite of the limitations of this pandemic, including an online drama night featuring 2 different plays that were produced and recorded virtually during the stay-at-home order. She has had her performances featured at DSBN board meetings, received recognition by our Director of Education and provided our community with entertainment, something so needed in these heavy times.”
Teri Cristelli, NCDSB Arts and Student Leadership Consultant, had this to say about Erin Amadio:
“I have personally witnessed Erin engage in creative drama lessons with some of her classes and was thoroughly impressed with the ways in which she enriched the curriculum with her energy. I watched her teach a Grade 3 class at St. Mark in which the students were working through tableaux and then reflecting on their work, and a kindergarten class in which she was bringing to life characterization through the story “Where the Wild Things Are”. In each of these instances, the students were mesmerized and participating thoroughly. She has shown me the importance and value of a drama specialist and how much deeper students can go with the curriculum with someone who is truly passionate about teaching drama.”
Jen Benson (2019)
This year, Carousel Players is proud to recognize the tireless work of a drama educator at the secondary school level, Head of Drama at EL Crossley Secondary School, Jennifer Benson. A dynamic teacher, Jen was actually a student of Norah Morgan’s at Brock University. “Jen Ben” ran creative arts camps at Ridley College in the summers for many years; has taught Drama, English and Vocal Music with the DSBN for over two decades; wrote, produced and directed plays for the Sears Drama Festival; has been an Improv coach for students and an Improv instructor for teachers.
Teresa Ricciuti (2018)
It is with tremendous pride that Carousel Players honours grade 7/8 teacher from DSBN’s Steele Street Public School, Teresa Ricciuti with the 13th annual Norah Morgan Memorial Award. Ms. Ricciuti will be recognized with this Award alongside her students and fellow faculty members on February 12. In appreciation of all Ms. Ricciuti does to promote the arts at Steele Street Public School, students in grades 4-8 will receive a performance of Carousel’s newest production This Will Be Excellent, compliments of Carousel Players.
“You can see the passion [Ms. Ricciuti] has for the arts” states Steele Street’s Principal, Mark Piazza, “from the most out going students to those who may be reluctant, Teresa can bring out the best in them; helping their self esteem and boosting their confidence.” This is precisely the reason Carousel Players established the Norah Morgan award in 2006.
The Norah Morgan Memorial Award recognizes elementary teachers who have made a strong contribution to the arts in Niagara schools. It is named in honour of internationally renowned educator Norah Morgan (1918-2004) who was a pioneer and champion of drama education for over 50 years.
“I am very honoured to be receiving the Norah Morgan Award!” says Ricciuti, ” All my life I have been deeply connected to the arts.” Ricciuti herself was inspired by her high school drama teacher, Mr. Peter Moore, making this award even more meaningful to her, “He encouraged my creativity and opened my eyes to a world in which drama is expressed throughout life.” And a great deal of Teresa’s life has indeed been dedicated to her love of the arts; Throughout high school and university Teresa performed in Grease, Little Shop of Horrors, The Rover, Bye Bye Birdie, Streetcar Named Desire, The Misanthrope, and more.
Bestowing this award on Teresa is of particular significance to Carousel Players as well. Beginning in 2003, Teresa served as the Theatre Camp Coordinator for Carousel Players Summer Theatre School for four years, and has since offered her own Summer Theatre School camps. This award marks Teresa’s 15th anniversary being involved with Carousel Players.
“I feel very strongly about teaching students how drama conventions, skills, and techniques can help them in all areas of their learning,” says Ricciuti who also writes, directs and performs productions each year involving students in her class as well as the entire student body. Teresa’s students have performed The Jungle Book, The Grinch, Scrooge, December in our Town, and Pay It Forward to just name a few.
Teresa attended Brock University where she completed a triple combined major in Drama In Education, Theatre, and Dramatic Literature. In 2010 she completed teachers college and began her teaching career with DSBN in Grades 1-6 as a homeroom teacher, incorporating Drama into all areas of the curriculum as a median for a more hands-on and creative way of learning.
“Theatre is an amazing forum for bringing together a community of learners and students of all ages and abilities. It’s a great way to help our school feel connected to our community and our family members enjoy seeing their children excel and find a love of learning through the dramatic arts!” says Ms. Ricciuti.
Tasya Candeloro (2017)
Carousel Players is proud to announce that the winner of the 12th Annual Norah Morgan Award is Mrs. Tasya Candeloro, a Grade 3 teacher at St. Anthony Catholic Elementary School in St. Catharines.
A life-long resident of St. Catharines and graduate of Brock University, over her 17 year career teaching Grades 1, 2 and 3, Mrs. Candeloro taught at St. Thomas More School in Niagara Falls for 14 years and joined the staff of St. Anthony in 2014.
Before principal Michael Hendrickse retired last year, he nominated Mrs. Candeloro for this prestigious award. He praised her as a dedicated educator who demonstrates a high level of commitment in promoting the arts as an essential part of the educational curriculum. She has inspired her students, regardless of their individual abilities/needs, not only to participate more actively but to develop their creativity and self-expression more fully through the use of music.
An accomplished pianist, Tasya has a piano into her classroom so that she can integrate music into her daily classroom activities. She truly believes that, by using music in the classroom, all students can develop their academic and interpersonal skills more successfully.
“I come from a family of teachers – my parents, my in-laws and my husband are teachers” says Tasya Candeloro. “From an early age I knew I wanted to be a teacher. I was an active helper with my mother’s classroom and I saw the impact of her dedication to teaching children. I am a classroom teacher who integrates the arts into my every day classroom – music, drama and creative movement. Integrating drama into our classroom activities helps children be more creative, express themselves more easily, inspires self-confidence, increases their ability to focus longer on tasks and helps them to work more collaboratively. This year, my Grade 3 students are excited to be writing their own songs.”
Lori Moccio (2016)
Carousel Players is pleased to announce that Lori Moccio, an Arts teacher for Grades 1 to 8 at Jeanne Sauvé French Immersion School in St. Catharines is the 2016 winner of the Norah Morgan Memorial Award.
School principal Candi Sitko who nominated Mrs. Moccio said, “Lori is passionate about teaching through the arts and engaging students in creative, authentic ways and has taught the arts to all elementary grades throughout her career. In addition to her teaching talents, Lori was part of a visionary team for DSBN Arts and the Elementary Arts Council. She is an engaging, knowledgeable and approachable teacher leader who has led DSBN initiatives such as the Niagara Elementary Music Festival, created many after school workshops and served as a great mentor to help DSBN teachers integrate the music curriculum into their classrooms.”
“It is an honour to be nominated by my school and to receive this wonderful award from Carousel Players,” said Lori Moccio. “From an early age, I knew I wanted to be a teacher. After graduating from the University of Western Ontario with a music degree and obtaining a teaching degree at Brock, I taught for 4 years in Toronto and then moved back to Niagara where I’ve enjoyed teaching at 4 different schools: Crowland Central, Richmond Street, Briardale, and Jeanne Sauvé French Immersion. My great joy is to teach the arts cross-curricularly and to find ways that every child in our school can fully participate in the arts. In Grade 4, for example, we used science vocabulary about herbivores, carnivores and omnivores to create rhythmic patterns. We then layered all the patterns and performed them in many different ways, using our bodies as instruments and eventually creating a whole class dance. In our Grade 2 classes we looked at images of different geographical landmarks in Canada. We made up a movement for each of our images and then danced all of Canada from west to east. We repeated the same lesson and selected and mapped geographic features in Niagara like the Welland Canal, Niagara Falls, the Escarpment, and created dances for each of them. We ended the class by dancing places on our map of Niagara!”
Marty Umanetz (2015)
Carousel Players announced that the winner of the 10th Annual Norah Morgan Award is Mr. Marty Umanetz, a teacher at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School in St. Catharines. Originally from Stoney Creek, Mr. Umanetz is a Grade 4/5 teacher at Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Elementary School. He moved to the Niagara region 21 years ago to assist in developing the Niagara Catholic District School Board’s CyberQuest Program. He integrated skills gained in film and theatre with technology to help elementary students learn effective communication skills in video production.
Fellow colleague Stefan Kamendy, also a teacher at Our Lady of Fatima, nominated Mr. Umanetz for this prestigious award. “I cannot imagine another teacher having more knowledge and experience in a range of artistic media in an elementary classroom while being so completely committee to the development of our youth” Kamendy wrote in his nomination letter.
An accomplished artist himself, in both the performing and visual arts, Mr. Umanetz believes that “art is a powerful application to communicate and a vehicle for self expression.” Marty goes on to explain, “Art develops intense creativity and ingenuity skills. How are we preparing our students for their future when the majority of them will work at jobs that haven’t been invented yet? Finding employment will demand they need a lot more than out of the box thinking. They will need to be able to reinvent the box.” On a final reflection on the power of art Umanetz refers to the genius Einstein who said “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we know, where imagination embraces all that ever will be.”
Sandie Heckel (2014)
Carousel Players announced that Sandie Heckel, a teacher at Power Glen Public School in St. Catharines is the winner of the 9th Annual Norah Morgan Award.
Principal Candi Sitko who nominated Mrs. Heckel said,”Sandie is an exceptional teacher who is passionate about the importance of the arts in the education of children and is a keen advocate for the arts. She also teaches her students to give back to others. Last June, she organized a Talent Show at our school to raise funds for the ArtsCan Circle, an organization which sends teams of musicians and artists to remote Canadian Indigenous communities to link creative artists with Indigenous youth at risk. She has been a member of the DSBN Arts Team for over 8 years during which time she assisted teachers in further their own skills in teaching the Arts. Sandie is truly an arts leader in our Board.”
“I’ve been involved in education in many different ways since I graduated from the Faculty of Education at the University of Ottawa,” said Heckel. “Mostly, I have been a music teacher to students from Kindergarten to Grade 8 and I have also spent 8 years as a Teacher Librarian. I am passionate about education and especially education through the arts. The arts bring people together, challenging us to really listen to each other and work collaboratively. The arts encourage us to think deeply and respond creatively.”
Paul Lukacs (2013)
Carousel Players is pleased to announce that Paul Lukacs, a St. Catharines resident and a Grade 5 teacher at St. Philomena Catholic School in Fort Erie, is the 2013 winner of the Norah Morgan Memorial Award.
School principal Robert Grand who nominated Lukacs said, “Paul Lukacs is a dynamic, energetic teacher who has had a very positive impact on our school in his two years here at St. Philomena. Paul is an exemplary teacher in terms of promoting and integrating music, drama, art and dance into his classroom and at our school. For example, he inspires his students to play an instrument and teaches all of his Grade 5 students to play the harmonica. They’ve performed at local shopping malls and at Education Week Showcases. Paul makes sure that everyone has a part in each play he directs including those who are first time performers.The kids in his classroom love to dance thanks to Paul’s enthusiasm and skill.”
“Carousel Players has been showcasing productions for schools and the region since I was in elementary school at St. James School in St. Catharines”, said Paul Lukacs. “I knew I wanted to be a teacher after coaching minor sports – getting young people working together is very rewarding. It is an honour to be nominated by my school and to receive this prestigious award from Carousel Players.”
Nancy Gill (2012)
Carousel Players is pleased to announce that Nancy Gill, a Grade 8 and visual ars teacher for Grades 2 to 8 at Power Glen School is the 2012 winner of the Norah Morgan Memorial Award.
“I chose to become a teacher in my thirties and I went to BrockUniversity and graduated with 2 degrees in 5 years,” said Nancy Gill. “At Brock I received great encouragement from two mentors in particular – Derek Knight and Warren Hartman. All of my fifteen years of teaching have been at Power Glen School in St. Catharines– fourteen years teaching Grade 6 and teaching Grade 8 for the first time this year. I really enjoy incorporating all of the arts into my every day classroom, teaching my students new ways of looking at art and helping them to work to their potential. I am honoured to be nominated by my school and to receive this award.”
Principal Candi Sitko who nominated Gill said, “Nancy is an outstanding teacher, an artist herself who is very passionate about the instruction of the visual arts. On any given day, at any given time, art is happening in Nancy’s classroom, whether it be using a mirror to draw a self-portrait in Grade 7, creating a dragon in Grade 4, or learning about the importance of lines in Grade 2. Once a year, Nancy organizes an “Art Gallery Opening” for her intermediate students that includes a detailed written passage about the process, the thinking and the reasoning behind each student’s artwork. She cares about her students being the best they can be in all areas of their lives. Visual arts is the vehicle she uses to accomplish this.” Nancy Gill also works with groups of Niagara teachers in Visual Arts Learning Groups to share her ideas and arts resources to integrate the Visual Arts in their classroom activities. For over six years, Ms. Gill has been a member of the Elementary Arts Council and Elementary Arts Showcase committee and helped to develop curriculum and visual arts resources for teachers.
Laurie Crain-Anez (2011)
Carousel Players is pleased to announce that Laurie Crain-Anez, a teacher and arts coach in visual art and drama in Catholic schools across Niagara, is the 2011 winner of the Norah Morgan Memorial Award. On January 25th at the Niagara Catholic District School Board meeting, the Norah Morgan Award presentation was made to Mrs.Crain-Anez by Debra McLauchlan, Chair of the Carousel Players Board of Directors.
Two educators who nominated Laurie (Nadine Riddle and Christine Rotundo) said, “Laurie Crain-Anez has shared her love of the Arts by engaging students, staff members and members of the arts community as part of her daily life throughout her teaching career. As a classroom teacher Mrs. Crain-Anez used the arts daily in her teaching. They say to teach is to touch a life forever and Mrs. Crain-Anez has touched so many lives by introducing them to the world of the Arts.” Mrs. Crain-Anez has been a member of the Niagara Catholic District School Board’s Arts Curriculum Council, has participated in the revision process of the Arts Curriculum Document for the Ministry of Education, conducted Arts workshops for the Niagara Catholic District School Board Professional Activity Days and also volunteers on the City of Niagara Falls’ Arts & Culture Committee.
“This is a great honour to win this teaching award named after Norah Morgan, said Crain-Anez. “I had the privilege of learning from Norah at Brock’s Faculty of Education when I completed my Dramatic Arts certification. Norah was so inspiring – I’ve used her book as a teaching resource so often that it’s now in pieces.”
Sharon Hellinga (2010)
Carousel Players is pleased to announce that Sharon Hellinga, an art teacher and librarian from Lakeview Public School in Grimsby is the 2010 winner of the Norah Morgan Memorial Award. Mrs. Hellinga received the award on February 9, 2010 at the Board meeting of the District School Board of Niagara. Lakeview School received a free performance by Carousel Players of Danny, King of the Basement for students in Grades 4 to 8 at Mrs. Hellinga’s school in Grimsby on March 10, 2010.
Her nominator, Lakeview School Principal Andrea Jack said, “Mrs. Hellinga has made an incredible impact in the arts with students, staff members and administration over her 12 years teaching at our school. She models her love of art everyday and ties that love into literacy and social studies daily. All you need to do is walk through our school’s front doors to see her influence on the walls and classrooms of the school. The “Peace” mural project displayed in the front foyer of our school began as a Remembrance Day project initiated by Mrs. Hellinga that involved 30 students. It is a showcase of our students’ creative talents and a symbol of our students’ commitment to become agents of change in their world.”
Anneliese Burke (2009)
Carousel Players is pleased to announce that teacher Mrs. Anneliese Burke from Notre Dame Catholic Elementary School in Niagara Falls is the 2009 winner of the Norah Morgan Memorial Award. Mrs. Burke received the award on Tuesday, January 27th at the Trustees Meeting of the Niagara Catholic District School Board.
Notre Dame School Principal Lorrie MacKenzie who nominated her said, “Mrs. Burke is a very energetic teacher who uses song, music, drama, expression and “oomph” to emphasize learning in everything she does with her junior and senior kindergarten classes. Seeing one of Mrs. Burke’s students’ performances makes us marvel at how the arts can bring out the very best in 3 to 5 year olds.” Mrs. Anneliese Burke’s career in teaching spans 32 years in 3 Niagara Falls Schools – Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Joseph and Notre Dame Catholic School and teaching all grades from JK to 8 except Grades 1 and Grade 6. Anneliese Burke is a teacher who actively celebrates the arts and fosters creativity and confidence in her pupils. “I believe that the arts are for everyone and we should encourage children to actively participate in music, dance, drama and art,” said Burke. “In my classes, we listen to music, sing and dance every day and make the words in our books come alive.”
Jerome Black (2008)
Carousel Players is pleased to announce that teacher Jerome Black from Maple Grove Public School in Beamsville is the 2008 recipient of the Norah Morgan Memorial Award. Jerome Black received the 2008 Norah Morgan Memorial Award on January 22, 2008 at the District School Board of Niagara Board of Trustees meeting in St. Catharines.
This is the third annual presentation of the award in memory of drama education pioneer Norah Morgan. Nominated by his former Principal Genny Weerdenburg, who said “Jerome’s passion for the Arts (music, drama and dance) has been very evident not only within the very walls of Maple Grove School but also throughout the Niagara Region. His Grade 4/5 students and every student at Maple Grove School are the lucky recipients of his creativity and marvel at his natural ability to bring the arts alive. While at Maple Grove School, he has written, directed, managed, produced and choreographed a number of theatrical productions such as: Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Rumpelstiltskin, Fame MG ( standing for Maple Grove, of course!) and is currently in the process of producing My Father’s Dragon. During these productions, Maple Grove School turns into a theatrical dream, with the helping hands of the school community waiting with baited breath to see what Jerome will create. Jerome teaches/co-teaches the Kindergarten to Grade 5 Arts Curriculum (music, drama and dance) and he has arranged for the students to visit Carousel Players, the Symphony in Hamilton and “Lion King” in Toronto. His Grade 4/5 students have recently been involved in Koi and the Koala: An African Folktale using ‘black light’ as an English integrated curriculum project, all under his direction. In the school community he is known, appreciated and loved for his many talents.”
Barb Hennessy (2007)
Carousel Players is pleased to announce St. George’s Barb Hennessy as the second recipient of the Norah Morgan Memorial Award. This year, the award goes to an educator in the Niagara Catholic District School Board.
Her nominator, Principal Bob Grand noted, “Barb demonstrates the qualities of an excellent teacher in the arts. For not being an arts major, she put her creative ability and teaching experience to test at St. George. She has impressed her colleagues with her re-enactment of the Titanic story with her grade two/three class one year. Implementing the curriculum along with drama, she had each of her students dress the part of a passenger on the Titanic. Each student was responsible for explaining his or her researched role in the story to the parents and students of the school in a performance. It was remarkable to see the students role play the history of the story, with a wall sized ship, music, food and replicas of ticket menus and programs.”
Barb Hennessy, was in fact a past student of Norah Morgan during her undergraduate education at Brock University. Dr. Debra McLauchlan, selection committee member and student of Norah, aptly stated, “Norah is smiling down at us for recognizing the achievements of these special arts educators.”
Tim Mallory (2006)
Carousel Players is pleased to announce Dalewood Senior Public School’s Tim Mallory as the first recipient of the Norah Morgan Memorial Award. Through the creation of new music programming, award winner Tim Mallory has fostered a love of music in his students, engaging 90% of Dalewood’s student body to participate in choir and orchestra. Mallory started his teaching career in 1990 as an itinerant instrumental music teacher with the Lincoln County Board of Education where he nearly doubled student enrolment in the program over four years. Mallory has been at Dalewood Senior Public School for the past 12 years where he has successfully built a school choir of over 200 students, organized “Choral Spring Sing” for St. Catharines North End Schools, started a grade 8 instrumental music program, as well as organized and led Dalewood’s annual Christmas concert and Spring variety show.