Robert Dahlin, music teacher at Ridgeview Middle School, was named Montgomery County Public Schools Teacher of the Year at the April 19 Champions for Children Awards Gala.
Dahlin is credited as the catalyst that has created and sustained a world-class music program at Ridgeview. “In an educational era in which arts and music programs struggle for a foothold in public education, the Ridgeview music program is a treasured source of pride for the entire school community,” says Principal Carol LeVine.
Dahlin began his career with MCPS in 1992 at Westland Middle School. He became general music teacher at Ridgeview in 1997.
At 6:30 every morning, Dahlin can be found conducting early practice for the Jazz Ensemble or Chamber String Ensemble. His various music groups consistently earn superior ratings at county and state band and orchestra festivals, and first place at the Music in the Parks competition in Williamsburg.
Students, colleagues and supervisors all praise Dahlin for his commitment to students and his ability to bring out the best in them—through a combination of setting the bar high, letting students know that he believes they can reach and exceed it, and being a nurturing but exacting taskmaster who will accept only their finest efforts.
Whether students are new to music, switching to a new instrument, or advanced, he has the expectations and skills to help them reach and exceed their goals.
“He reaches out and embraces every child,” LeVine says. “He understands the needs of each one, encourages their talent and inspires their confidence,” she says.
Ridgeview holds several major concerts during the school year, and Dahlin created a model for musical performance at the annual Evening of Excellence program. Always seeking ways to showcase student talent, he thought of having string quartets and bands as background music before parent meetings, graduations, and other evening activities.
Reaching out into the community, Dahlin takes students to perform at local elementary schools and to cluster concerts for the Quince Orchard and Northwest clusters. The Jazz Band and String Ensemble regularly play at Borders Books & Music and the Kentlands Arts Barn.
In addition to his work with Ridgeview students, for the past three winters, Dahlin has been the sixth grade honors band director for the north county.
Dahlin will compete with teachers from other counties for Maryland Teacher of the Year. That winner will advance to the national competition. Dahlin also becomes part of a state network of exemplary educators working with the Maryland State Department of Education on policy and program development.
The Teacher of the Year was selected from among three veteran teacher winners of the Marian Greenblatt Excellence in Teaching Awards. The other two veteran teacher award winners were Catherine Ulicny, science teacher at Paint Branch High School, and Karen Wendel, math content coach at Brookhaven Elementary School.