2023 MMEA Mentoring Conference: Mentors & Presenters
9th Annual MMEA Mentoring Conference
“A Drop In The Bucket: expanding our possibilities”
September 17 & 18, 2023
Tan-Tar-A Conference Center
2023 Mentors & Presenters
Sheila Baer is beginning her 21st year at Union RXI School District teaching PreK – 5th grade general music. She also directs a 4th-5th grade choir which sings in the community and at school assemblies as well as co-director of the East Central College Youth Ensemble. Sheila has taught a high school American Pops class; middle school 6th grade choir and 6th grade beginning band. She is on the National Kodaly Choir Committee, VP for Early Childhood/Elementary Music for MMEA, Mentoring vp for MMEA East Central District #7 and treasurer for SLAKE (St Louis Area Kodaly Educators). She has certificates in World Drumming, Kodaly and Orff. Her time away from school is spent traveling to see her three children, gardening and biking with her husband and quilting.
Elizabeth Betts is currently in her third year as Director of Bands for the Fayette School District in Fayette, Missouri. She has taught the past 14 years in small, Missouri schools- many of them spent teaching PreK-12 Music. She has been involved with the MMEA mentoring program for five years, and is a member of MMEA, NafME, and MBA. Elizabeth resides in Fayette, Missouri with her husband and two children.
Sarah Cook is in her 20th year teaching vocal music (grades 6-12) at the Lafayette County C-1 School District in Higginsville, Missouri. She was the Lafayette County C-1 District Teacher of the Year for the 2020-2021 school year. Mrs. Cook studied at the University of Central Missouri where she earned a Bachelor of Music Education degree in vocal music and a Master of Arts in Music Education degree with a conducting emphasis. Mrs. Cook is a member of NAFME, MMEA, ACDA, MCDA, and MSTA, and serves as the secretary/treasurer for West Central MMEA. In 2017, she received the MCDA Outstanding Director Award for West Central Missouri.
Patrick Dell is in his 16th year of teaching choir, with fourteen of them at Hermann Middle School and Hermann High School. During his time in Hermann, the choirs routinely received “1” ratings at MSHSAA contest, as well as invitations to perform at the MMEA Convention in 2017 and 2022. Patrick serves as a clinician and presents workshops on teaching and sight-singing around the state, and writes music assessment materials for various local and state groups. He routinely judges for district and state level MSHSAA vocal music festivals and MCDA honor choir auditions. As a pianist, he has also accompanied numerous choirs around the nation and the world for various schools and professional organizations, and has performed as a soloist at Carnegie Hall twice. He currently lives in Hermann, where he also works part-time as a wedding officiant; to date, Patrick has wed 207 couples, with the privilege of eight of them including his former students.
Kyle Donnelly received his bachelor’s in music education and minor in business from the University of Missouri, his master’s in music education from Central Methodist University, and is currently working towards his National Board Certification. Presently, he serves as the Assistant Band Director for West Middle School in Columbia, where he also assists with the Hickman Marching Kewpies. Prior to this position, Kyle spent eight years as the Assistant Band Director in Boonville, MO, and one year as the K-12 music/band director in Pilot Grove, MO. He has served as a mentor for first year music teachers through MMEA since 2014 & has presented clinics at both the MMEA and MBA conventions. Kyle resides in Columbia with his wife, Melanie, and daughters, Karis and Gwen.
Brian Hartman has served as a choral music educator for twenty-three years, currently enjoying his fourteenth at Liberty North High School in Liberty, Missouri. Throughout his tenure, Mr. Hartman has enjoyed performances as a singer, conductor, and adjudicator across the United States and abroad. His choirs have consistently received the highest ratings at festivals and competitions at local and international events. Mr. Hartman is active in music education organizations having served in numerous roles with the Kansas City Metro District, MCDA, SWACDA, and Missouri Music Educators Association, serving as President for the 2022-2024 term. He holds degrees from Wichita State University (BME), University of Missouri-Columbia (MM), and Northwest Missouri State University (EdS). Mr. Hartman is motivated by the journey and the process of creating a space in his classroom where all feel welcome, are seen, heard, and experience belonging. He credits his family for being his inspiration and support and relishes every opportunity to spend time with his wife, Laura, children, Cami and Barrett, and their dog, Lloyd.
Jodi Kratzer teaches vocal music at Fort Zumwalt North Middle School and previously served as the Middle School Choir Vice President for St. Louis Metro District 8. She holds a degree in Vocal Music Education from Concordia University Chicago, has earned her Level II Certification from the CME Institute for Choral Teacher Education, and received Outstanding District Director awards from the Missouri Choral Directors Association in 2018 and 2022. She also worked as the Vocal Music Director for the City of O’Fallon’s teen summer musical in 2017 and as Choir Manager for The St. Louis Children’s Choirs from 2009-2014. She is an active member of ACDA and NAfME.
Hailee Kaestner begins her fourth year teaching at New Bloomfield R-III. After graduating with her Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from Missouri State University, she started her career running the High School and Beginner Band Program at New Bloomfield. Since then, she started two Vocal Ensembles, a Jazz Program, Intermediate Band, and a Color Guard. By her third year, she was awarded the 2023 David B. Goodwin Outstanding Young Music Educator. Prior to this, she earned the MBA Young Bandmasters Grant in 2021 and was featured several times in the “Mo’ Better Band” Podcast hosted by Donovan Bankhead during her first year. As well as being director of the MS/HS Music Program at New Bloomfield, she also has served on the District’s Mentor Committee and on the Principal Advisory Committee.
Steve Litwiller started his teaching career at Leeton, Missouri in 1978. He taught in Gallatin 4 years, and then moved to Boonville, where he taught instrumental music for 30 years. He presented a clinic at the Midwest International Instrumental Convention in Chicago on “Beginning Band: Training and Retaining Students,” in December, 2018.
He served two terms as President of the West Central Missouri Music Educators Association, and is a Past-President of the Missouri Bandmasters Association. In 2010 he was named Missouri High School Activities Association Music Educator of the Year. In January 2013, he received the Phi Beta Mu Missouri Band Director of the Year Award. In June of 2014 he was awarded the Missouri Bandmasters Association “Hall of Fame Award.” In January, 2022 he was inducted into the Missouri Music Educators Association Hall of Fame.
For 29 years, Vanessa Miner has served the children of Missouri as a music specialist with advanced training in Orff and Kodaly. With experience in K-12 general and vocal music, she currently teaches K-5 music and 6th grade choir in the Fayette, Missouri school district.
Vanessa is actively involved in the Mentoring Program and served as Elementary/Early Childhood Vice President for MMEA (2012-2014). She was recently selected for the MCDA Northeast District Outstanding Director. She also enjoys directing theater productions for school and the Fayette Area Community Theater. She is an active music adjudicator in Missouri.
Vanessa graduated with her BME from Central Methodist University. She earned her Master of Curriculum and Instruction from the University of Missouri – Columbia and holds professional memberships in MMEA, NAfME, MCDA, ACDA, and AOSA.
Vanessa and her husband Jeff have four children. They make their home in Fayette, Missouri.
Meet Aaron Neff, a passionate music teacher with a profound love for nurturing young talents at Arcadia Valley High School. From an early age, Aaron’s life revolved around melodies and harmonies, fueling his determination to share the magic of music with others.
Aaron received his degrees from Mineral Area College and Central Methodist University. He is currently working on his Master’s degree from Central Methodist University.
As an advocate for music education, Aaron has played a pivotal role in organizing school concerts and community events, showcasing his students’ talents while spreading the joy of music to a wider audience.
Aaron enjoys spending his time outdoors with his wife Jennifer, and his children, Hayden, Liam, and Ruby.
Rene’ Spencer has 37 years of Missouri teaching experience and is currently an adjunct instructor at Missouri Southern State University and instructor for the Kodaly Institute of the Ozarks at Missouri State University. Her 31 years of public school experience include secondary vocal and instrumental music and elementary music. Rene’ has served as clinician in Missouri and Arkansas, conducted numerous honor choirs and served as Elementary Vice President for MMEA, founding president of the Kodaly of the Ozarks chapter of OAKE and as a member of the MMEA mentoring team.
Rene’ earned her BME from Southwest Baptist University, her masters in instrumental music education and Orff Level 1 certification from Missouri State University, and Kodaly certification (levels one through four) from the University of Central Missouri. She lives on a farm in Southwest Missouri with her husband, has three adult daughters (and one son-in-law), and two gorgeous grandsons.
After thirty years, Chris Sprague retired in July of 2022. She spent the last twenty-seven years at Bradleyville, a small rural school in southwest Missouri serving 220 students in grades K-12. Her teaching assignments included Band 5-12, K-8 general music and Vocal Music 9-12. During her tenure at Bradleyville her bands received numerous accolades, including selection to perform at the Missouri Music Educators Association Conference in 2014 and multiple years of “straight 1” performances at the MSHSAA All-State Large Ensemble Festival. Chris is currently serving as the Past President of the Missouri Music Educators Association and previously served as MMEA President from 2020-2022. She has also been heavily involved in the MMEA Mentoring Program for new teachers since its inception. She is an active clinician, adjudicator, and mentor. Her hobbies include fishing with her husband Matt and gardening, and she is a 40+ year fan of the Kansas City Chiefs.
Shelly Swink is a band director at Glasgow High School in Glasgow, MO. Ms. Swink will be starting her second year of teaching following the 2022-2023 school year. Besides her commitments as a band director, Ms. Swink has served as an event organizer for Glasgow’s music conference. Along with her responsibilities as the Glasgow band director, which includes the Yellowjacket Marching Band and the Yellowjacket Concert Band, Shelly teaches classes in guitar and piano, as well as assisting students in individual instrumental lessons. Ms. Swink also coordinates the annual Pumpkin Daze Parade hosted in Glasgow, MO.
A native of Waynesville, Missouri, Shelly received her Bachelor of Music Education degree from Central Methodist University in 2022. During her time at Central Methodist University, she participated in Sigma Alpha Iota and NAfME, serving as the fundraising chair. Ms. Swink studied clarinet under Dr. Lucas Willsie. Shelly is an active performer when the opportunity arises. Outside the music community, she stays active in the community through volunteering at her church.
Susan Wallace is a former MoASTA Outstanding Elementary Educator honoree.
A University of Arkansas graduate, Susan spent nearly 30 years teaching string orchestra in public schools including: Fort Scott, Ks.; Mount Vernon, Iowa; Alice, Tex.; Opelika, Ala. and Jefferson City, Mo.
An advocate for string music of different genres in order to create interest for students, Wallace taught in the Mariachi program in Texas and was a clinician for famed fiddle player Jana Jae’s annual Oklahoma fiddle camp for over 15 years.
Her efforts to create a new string orchestra program in Opelika prompted special recognition from the school board and administrators.
While teaching in her private studio for more than 30 years, Wallace has also performed in civic orchestras in Fort Scott, Montgomery and Jefferson City.
She retired from Jefferson City Schools after 18 years of teaching strings at Lewis and Clark Middle School as well as elementary schools and after-school string orchestra programs.
She has continued to work as an adjudicator and clinician for string programs in Missouri.
Caroline Williams is the music teacher at Sunrise R-9 where she teaches music, band, and a before-school choir to students in preschool through 8th grade. Prior to working at Sunrise, she taught K-12 music and band at Scott County Central in Sikeston, MO. She holds a Bachelor’s degree from Webster University and is currently pursuing a Master’s degree with Missouri State University. She is a member of MMEA, MBA, and NAfME and has been a recipient of an MMEA Legacy Scholarship and MBA Young Director Grants.