'Inspiring' orchestra teacher receives Golden Apple

Audrey Nowak leads her orchestra class at Bay Port High School. (WLUK/Andrew LaCombe)
Audrey Nowak leads her orchestra class at Bay Port High School. (WLUK/Andrew LaCombe)

HOWARD - Just as a piece of music can make a drastic change in volume or speed, Audrey Nowak has made drastic changes in the lives of her students.

"She's the reason why I am where I am today. I would be in a very bad place if it wasn't for her," said sophomore Shawna Keating.

"She inspired me to go into music education as a career," said senior Derek Utech.

Nowak believes students will always carry their lessons from orchestra.

"They can still get all the joy from it. I'm really proud of that, because I feel like that's where the energy comes from. They think it comes from me, but it doesn't. It's them. It's them feeding off each other and propelling each other towards excellence," said Nowak.

Nowak teaches at Bay Port High School and Lineville Intermediate School.

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When Nowak started teaching in the district four years ago, there were 104 kids in the orchestra program. Now there are 280.

Students say enthusiasm is Nowak's forte.

For Nowak and her students, music education expands beyond the school and the county. Earlier this month, the Bay Port Orchestra performed at Symphony Hall in Chicago.

The group was one of four orchestras from across the country chosen to perfom.

"After 23 years of teaching, I didn't think it was possible, but these kids have shocked me," said Nowak.

It's an impact that goes both ways.

"I smile the rest of the day. I can't have a bad day when I have orchestra," said Keating.

"I mean, kids just feel better after playing, and that's just really a joy to watch," added Nowak.

Nowak also plays violin with orchestras in Green Bay, Appleton and Oshkosh.

She will be honored with fellow winners at the 21st annual Golden Apple Awards event on Wednesday, April 23.