May 09, 2017
The Washington County Community Foundation (WCCF) has named Melanie Sandrock, a music educator from Ringgold School District, the recipient of this year’s Dr. Howard Jack Outstanding Public Educator Award. Criteria for the award are that the educator inspires students of all abilities, has earned the respect of colleagues, students, and parents, and is actively engaged in the community.
Sandrock, who teaches chorus, guitar, the Celtic harp, and music, graduated from Bethany College in West Virginia with a degree in music education, and with the exception of one year spent teaching elementary school immediately following college, she has spent 41 years teaching at Ringgold Middle School in Finleyville, Pa.
She initially envisioned teaching music at the high school level. “The goal of most graduating music teachers is to be a high school music teacher,” she notes. “But that was my plan. This is God’s plan. And when you’re where God wants you to be, you’re in the right place.”
Sandrock has clearly been in the right place, inspiring, guiding, and encouraging her students, helping them to discover talents and abilities they often didn’t know they had. She has played a large role in the evolution of the school’s music program, which includes the Ringgold Harp Ensemble. Years ago, one of her students, who knew she played the Celtic harp, asked if Sandrock would teach her to play after school. One student quickly grew to a group of 10, and eventually the after-school program became an official class. Today, the ensemble includes both junior and senior high school students and has competed at the Highland Games at Ligonier; performed at Monongahela Valley Hospital for the United Way luncheon; auditioned and performed at a large showcase concert in Hershey, Pa., for the Pennsylvania State School Board and Superintendents Convention (one of just two western Pennsylvania schools there); and performed at numerous other events.
Sandrock also works with the school’s string band, the Rustic Rhythms, and its show choir, which is performing at Disney World this year. Many of her students have gone on to careers in performance: several are at Disney World, and one works with Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.
“Music,” she says,” has always been part of my life.” Sandrock’s mother is a pianist and church organist. There was always music in her home, and her parents always supported her. Her husband, Brad, and her two sons, Brent and Ben, have been equally supportive during her career. “My family never missed a concert or a show, ever.”
And while she takes none of the credit for her amazing work, coworker Dawn Mason, who nominated her for the award, wrote, “Her positive demeanor radiates throughout the school, both in her class and in the extracurricular events she sponsors.” Her many students, past and present, would undoubtedly agree.
Sandrock will be recognized at the WCCF’s annual Legacy Luncheon on Friday, May 19, and the Dr. Howard Jack Outstanding Public Educator Award will be presented to her at the WCCF’s annual scholarship ceremony in June. In her honor, the Foundation will award a $1,000 grant to Ringgold School District in support of the harp ensemble program.