Award-winning teacher meets Blue Rodeo
|By Mark Arike - Staff Writer | August 13, 2015
A Bancroft high school teacher with local roots is on top of the world.
On Feb. 1, Dianne Winmill (née Garbutt) received the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year award and the swag that comes with it.
But a surprise visit from Canadian music legends Blue Rodeo was the icing on the cake.
“When my husband and I arrived outside the studio, I had sound technicians from various networks hooking me up with microphones and MusiCounts representatives introducing themselves, and I thought that maybe, this would be when I would meet Blue Rodeo,” Winmill told The Highlander.
“Sure enough, it was. Receiving the award from Blue Rodeo was absolutely surreal!”
The 45-year-old is a music teacher to students in grades 9-12 at North Hastings High School. She also helps students in the Royal Conservatory of Music program, “which is unique in Canada.”
Winmill went to Toronto with a few of her students to pick up the award, which was sponsored by Blue Rodeo.
But little did she know they would be there.
“I almost felt like it wasn’t me standing there! As if I was looking in on someone else and their students as an observer,” said Winmill.
As the winner, she also received $10,000 for herself and the school’s music program, Blue Rodeo concert tickets and an invitation for two to this year’s Juno awards.
Winmill’s parents, Nancy and Jim Garbutt, grew up in Scarborough but left the city and moved to Minden after they got married. She was born in 1971, and soon after her parents built their first home. Her brothers Dan and Jay live in Minden, while her sister Janene lives in Kinmount with her family.
Winmill attended Archie Stouffer Elementary School (ASES) and Haliburton Highlands Secondary School (HHSS). She says she received “excellent music instruction from Rick Vaughan and Jack Gordon” during her high school years and long after that.
When she was seven, she first saw Glen Carter, a music teacher at the time.
“I remember sitting on the cold, hard gym floor at [ASES] while this amazing man waved his arms in front of a group of people playing a bunch of instruments I had never seen or heard before,” she said. The same day Winmill told her mom she wanted to be a teacher like Mr. Carter when she grew up.
Her parents thought she should take some piano lessons and enlisted the services of Melissa Stephens, who is currently a music teacher at HHSS.
“Over my 12 years of piano study with Melissa, I competed in the North Hastings Music Festival yearly (and of which I am now the vice-president) and earned my Grade 10 piano from the Royal Conservatory of Music, which prepared me to successfully audition for post-secondary music school.”
Winmill left Minden in 1990 to obtain a music degree at Wilfred Laurier University. But she returned to work various summer jobs and even ran her own cleaning business at one point.
The money she recently won from MusiCounts, a music education charity, will be spent on repairing the school’s well-used musical instruments.
“They have been getting used hard and many of our instruments are over 50 years old,” she said. “The students are so careful, but instruments still need maintenance and replacement.”
Winmill is grateful for being able to impact the lives of many students.
“I am just so blessed,” she said.
“The majority of teachers get into this business because it is a calling—not a job. And I would say that most of us have a ‘Mr. Carter’ who inspired us to act on that calling.”
The school’s principal, Ken Dostaler, nominated her for the award and Grade 12 student Kaitlyn Maloney gathered supporting information.
To learn more about MusiCounts, visit musicounts.ca.
MARK ARIKE is a reporter for The Highlander.