The Power Couple of Music: Distinguished Teachers Roland and Almita Vamos


Roland and Almita Vamos are a talented husband and wife team who are considered among the most prominent violin and viola  instructors in the entire world. Their students have become accomplished soloists, members of world-renowned chamber groups and orchestras, and laureates of many prestigious international competitions. The musical couple has been recognized at the White House seven times. Both husband and wife have been named Distinguished Teachers by the National Endowment of the Arts. They have also been honored by the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) with the Distinguished Service Award, and showcased on CBS television show Sunday Morning News.

Both Roland and Almita attended the prestigious Julliard School of Music in New York City. There Roland studied with Oscar Shumsky and William Lincer, and Almita studied with Mischa Mischakoff and Louis Persinger.

Roland and Almita are members of the faculty at the Music Institute of Chicago and at Northwestern University. Prior to teaching at Northwestern, they were on faculty at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music. The talented teachers are also the co-founders of the Weathersfield Summer Music Festival in Weathersfield, Vermont. The festival, inaugurated in 1993, offers an opportunity for serious students of all ages to study intensively for six weeks in an enthusiastic and supportive atmosphere through private lessons, master classes, and performance opportunities.

Entertainment Anchor Joyce Kulhawik: She Was Once a High School English Teacher

imagesCAVIX9GJMany talented educators can boast of achievements in fields other than education. Such is certainly the case for Joyce Kulhawik, a Boston high school English teacher who was once the arts and entertainment anchor for WBZ-TV News in Boston, Massachusetts.

Joyce was born in 1952 in Connecticut. In 1974, she earned her bachelor’s degree in English and Secondary Education from Simmons College, a private undergraduate college for women located in Boston. One of the top two graduating seniors at Simmons, Joyce was recognized with the Crown Zellerbach Award and a full fellowship to the University of Vermont, where she completed the requirements for a double master’s degree in English and Education in 1977.

After her college graduation, Joyce taught English at Brookline High School in Brookline, Massachusetts. She was employed there from 1976 to 1978. The school itself is remarkable, having received the Gold Medal for Best High Schools from US News and World Report. Joyce also was a member of the faculty at the Boston Architectural College from 1977 to 1979. Also known a the BAC, the school is New England’s largest private college of spatial design, offering bachelor’s and master’s degrees in architecture, interior design, landscape architecture, and design studies. The college offers continuing education credits and certificates, and also hosts the BAC Summer Academy for high school students.

Joyce began working for WBZ-TV in 1978 as an associate producer and reporter for Evening Magazine. In 1981, she became the station’s arts and entertainment reporter, and played a key role in the public service campaign, “You Gotta Have Arts!” As part of the campaign, the former teacher hosted the station’s Emmy Award-winning You Gotta Have Arts! program, as well as three specials, the first of which received an Emmy Award in 1982. She also presented Arts Breaks, 60-second spots featuring local artists, museums, and cultural events. From 1982 to 1985, Joyce served as co-anchor of the station’s Live on 4 newscast. She also performed as a guest narrator in orchestral works, and has performed with the Boston Pops, the New England Philharmonic, the Boston Musica Viva, the Boston Civic Symphony, and the Concord Orchestra. In addition, Joyce was the co-host of the weekly nationally syndicated movie review program Hot Ticket. During the 1999–2000 television season, Joyce was a co-host on Roger Ebert & The Movies. Joyce concluded her career with the television station in 2008.

A three-time cancer survivor, Joyce testified before Congress on the 20th anniversary of the National Cancer Act. Since 1983 she has served as the Honorary Chairperson for the American Cancer Society’s Daffodil Days, the largest state-wide annual spring fundraising event. The American Cancer Society honored Joyce with its National Bronze Medal Award, and she also earned the 1994 Gilda Radner Award from the Wellness Community in Greater Boston “for engendering inspiration in cancer patients via her own valiant fight with the disease.”

In 1990, Joyce was the recipient of The Boston Theater District Award, which is presented annually to a Bostonian who has made a significant contribution to the stage, screen, or television. She also received Boston New England Emmy Award for WBZ-TV’s Outstanding Team Coverage of Ground Zero in 2001. In May, 2002, she received an Honorary Doctorate in Communications from her alma mater, Simmons College. In May, 2007, she was named one of the first inductees to the Massachusetts Broadcasters Hall of Fame. In May 2010, she received the Governor’s Award, and the next year the former educator received the Lifetime Achievement Award at the14th annual Exceptional Woman Awards presented by radio station 106.7FM WMJX Boston.

Elementary School Teacher Grant Speed: Also an Acclaimed Western Sculptor

u._grant_speed_headshot_large[1]Often times talented educators earn recognition in fields other than education, and such is the case with (Ulysses) Grant Speed, an elementrary school teacher who also happens to be an acclaimed artist of western sculptures.

Grant was born January 6, 1930, in San Angelo, Texas. He spent his youth riding and roping, and as a teenager worked as a cowboy on his uncle’s ranch. He eventually became adept at breaking horses, and also became a rodeo contestant, competing in the bareback and bull-riding events, until a leg injury brought this activity to a halt.

In 1948, while the Korean War was in full swing, eighteen-year-old Grant enlisted in the US Air Force, serving for two years and working as an airplane mechanic. Once he was discharged, he completed a three-year mission for the Mormon church. He also married and started a family.

In 1959, Grant earned his bachelor’s degree at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. His major was animal science, but he also completed art courses and began sculpting. “Having come from conservative West Texas, I really wanted to be the world’s best cowboy,” Grant once revealed. “Yet every time I got a chance to be around any kind of western art, I couldn’t stop reading about it, looking at it, and studying it.”

Once Grant graduated from college, he accepted his first position as a teacher at an elementary school in Salt Lake City. His career as an educator spanned eight years, until he he decided to leave the profession to devote himself full-time to his art. During that period of his life, “I didn’t hardly get any sleep because I taught school all day and worked on art all night,” Grant once confessed. “I’m not talking about ’till just 12 o/clock; I’m talking about until two or three in the morning. And then I got up at 6:30 and went to teach school.”

The former educator has exhibited at the Phoenix Art Museum in Phoenix, Arizona, and the Whitney Gallery of Art in Cody, Wyoming. His bronze equestrian sculpture Night Ridin’ is displayed in the permanent art collection in the historic district of St. George, Utah, while his scupture of the legendary Texas cattleman Charles Goodnight can be found in the Square House Museum in Panhandle, Texas. The Springville Museum of Art has Grant’s equestrian sculpture Ropin’ Out the Best Ones. He also created a large-scale statue of Texas rock ‘n’ roll legend Buddy Holly for Holly’s hometown of Lubbock, Texas, and a life-size horse-and-rider piece for Texas Tech University depicting the school’s mascot, the Red Raider.

Grant’s sculptures have earned him high praise. Among his awards is the Gold Medal for Sculpture from Cowboy Artists of America and the Prix de West Award from the National Academy of Western Art, which is affiliated with the National Cowboy Hall of Fame in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

Grant Speed passed away on October 1, 2011, at the age of 81. He is interred at Lindon City Cemetery in Lindon, Utah.

Novelist and Hollywood Personality David Benioff: He’s a Former English Teacher

0f46c4db2fc80ac1d188b2.L._V375855439_[1]Many avid readers may be familiar with the blockbuster book City of Thieves by David Benioff. But did you know the author was a former English teacher? This talented educator has made his mark as a consummate novelist, screenwriter, and television producer. He is perhaps best known as the co-creator of the HBO series Game of Thrones.

David was born on September 25, 1970, in New York City. He is the youngest of three children of Barbara (Benioff) and Stephen Friedman, who was the senior partner and chairman of Goldman Sachs investment firm, an advisor to President George W. Bush, and the chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. As a young boy, David gravitated to all things literary, fancying comic books and classic far-flung fantasy such as Homer’s Iliad and J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. His imagination was supplemented by an affinity for playing the video game Dungeons & Dragons.

David, who changed his surname to his mother’s maiden name of Benioff while in his teens, graduated from the exclusive New York City secondary school called The Collegiate School. He then enrolled at Dartmouth College, where he graduated in 1992. David earned his a master’s degree at Trinity College in Dublin, Ireland, writing his thesis on Samual Beckett.

After he graduated form college, David worked at various jobs, including a stint as a club bouncer, a radio disc jockey, and a high school English teacher at Poly Prep in Brooklyn, New York, where he also served as the school’s wrestling coach.  In 1999, David returned to school, completing the requirements for a second master’s degree in creative writing from the University of California, Irvine, in 1999.

While working as a high school English teacher, David wrote his first book called The 25th Hour, which earned him many accolades. He later adapted the book into a screenplay, which was made into a film directed by Spike Lee and starring Edward Norton. In 2004, David then wrote a collection of short stories titled When the Nines Roll Over (And Other Stories) and a screenplay about the Greek myth Troy which earned him $2.5 million from Warner Brothers pictures. That same year, he was hired to write the screenplay for the X-Men spin-off   X-Men Origins: Wolverine. The following year, David wrote the script for the psychological thriller Stay, which was adapted into a film directed by Marc Forster and starred Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts. His 2007 screenplay for The Kite Runner, adapted from the novel of the same name, marked his second collaboration with director Marc Forster. In 2008, David’s second novel, City of Thieves, was published. He is currently working on an adapted screenplay of the Charles R. Cross biography of Kurt Cobain. He is also working with D.B. Weiss as the executive producer of Game of Thrones, HBO’s adaptation of George R.R. Martine’s A Song of Ice and Fire novels, which David read and enjoyed as a teen.

David’s work in Hollywood has earned several awards. He has won the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form, and the Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form.

Carol Comeau: The Alaskan Noon Supervisor That Became a Teacher, and Then the District Superintendent

carol-comeau[1]Ever since Alaska became part of the United States, so many outstanding teachers have gravitated to the vast territory. One of these amazing educators is Carol Comeau, who once worked as a noon duty supervisor in an Anchorage school, became a teacher there, and eventually retired as the district superintendent 38 years later.

Carol was born in Berkeley, California, in 1941, although she was raised in Iowa. When she was young, she wanted to be an investigative reporter, so after her high school graduation she enrolled at the University of Oregon to persue a bachelor’s degree in journalism. In her sophomore year, however, she discovered her passion for teaching and changed her major to elementary education.

In 1960, Carol met her future husband, Denny Comeau. The pair married in 1962. His father owned a grocery store in Anchorage, so the couple decided to spend the summer following their marriage in Alaska. Although they returned to Oregon in the fall so her husband could complete his degree, a love for the state sprang from her summer experience there. For the first year the couple spent in Oregon, Carol taught elementray school in Spokane. In 1974, the Comeaus returned to Alaska permanently. By then, Carol and Denny had three children, and Carol had been a stay-at-home-mom for ten years. Once her children were all of school age, and enrolled at Ocean View Elementary School in Anchorage, Carol took a job at their school as a part-time noon duty supervisor.

Carol earned her master’s degree in public administration and education from the University of Alaska, Anchorage. She resumed her teaching career in 1975 when she was hired to teach second grade at the Ocean View School. In 1984, she was named president of the Anchorage Education Association, and by 1993, she was promoted to superintendent for the Anchorage School District. She became Head Superintendent in 2000. “I laugh because I think if my sixth grade teacher could know that I was a superintendent, she would turn over in her grave,” Carol once said of her favorite teacher. She recalled the sixth-grade teacher was always telling her to work harder and stop being so chatty.

As an administrator, Carol worked to get Jewish and Islamic holidays added to the school calendar, and to include sexual orientation as part of her district’s anti-harassment policy. At 48,200 students, Anchorage is the state’s largest and most diverse district.

Carol was named Alaska Superintendent of the Year in 2004. In 2007, she was awarded an honorary doctorate at the University of Alaska, Anchorage. In 2012, she was named an Alumnus of Distinction and given the Alumni of Achievement Award by the University of Alaska, Anchorage. Also, an endowment specifially for education at the Alaska Community Foundation is named after this remarkable educator. Carol was inaugurated to the Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame in 2009. She retired on June 30, 2012, and today makes her home in Bellingham, Washington.