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To honor TWU’s strong legacy of producing some of the best educators in the state and our commitment to impactful giving, the Pioneer Alumni Association on an ongoing basis awards a TWU alumni who is a primary school teacher up to $250 towards their Amazon Teacher’s Wish List. If you are a PreK-12 educator and would like to be considered for this award, contact us here.  We are happy to announce that the third recipient of this award is Angie Liss, who graduated in 1989 with a degree in Music Therapy and is a band director at Howe High School.  Here’s a brief interview with Angie to learn more about her time at TWU and how she used her “early Christmas present” to support her students. 

Angie Liss
Angie Liss

Where are you from and where do you live now?

I am from Howe, Texas and have now landed back in my hometown!

What was your major at TWU and what year did you graduate?

I graduated from TWU in 1989 and with a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Music Therapy. I worked for the next few years as a music therapist before returning in the fall of 1994 to complete more coursework for my Texas teacher certification.

What made you choose TWU?

There were only a few universities that offered a degree in Music Therapy and after much research, I chose TWU for its quality professors and reputation for excellence in education.  When I shifted my career to music education, the same reasons made TWU the obvious choice for those courses.

What do you remember the most from your time at TWU? Was there a class or professor that really affected you or prepared you especially well for your career?

While my undergraduate was focused on music therapy, the education I received prepared me very well for the public school band setting. Having grown up in a small, conservative town and now working in an often-male dominated profession, I have on many occasions recalled things I learned from Dr. Nancy Hadsell.  Not only did she provide solid instruction in music and music therapy, Dr. Hadsell modeled how to be a strong woman and educator.

Can you tell us a little bit about your job? What’s the name of the school you teach at and how did you end up doing that specifically?

I am in my 30th year as band director at Howe High School (and 20th year as head director.)  After graduating from TWU in 1989 I worked for the next few years as a music therapy consultant in the Arlington and Allen ISD’s.  In the summer of 1994, my high school band director called and asked me to come work with him as his assistant.  While I loved being a music therapist, life changes made self-employment not the ideal situation, so I went to work full-time in Howe ISD. Along with my job as Director of Bands in Howe ISD, I currently serve as the Association of Texas Small School Bands (ATSSB) President-Elect and the ATSSB Region 24 Coordinator. I also serve as piano accompanist for my church as well as several area choirs and band students.

What are some of the biggest challenges being a teacher?

I think some of the biggest challenges of being a teacher are wrapped up in a big balancing act.  As an educator and specifically an extracurricular educator, it can be overwhelming trying to balance the needs of your students and your program along with your own personal needs and those of your family.  If all we had to do was teach our content, it might be easier, but I believe most educators care very deeply about their students and their students’ well-being, so our job goes far beyond our content area.  I personally find it difficult to step away from the classroom both physically and mentally.  (My husband reminds me all the time to “step off the podium.”)

What do you love about your job?

I LOVE so many things about my job! I love the performance and competition of the band world but I mostly love that I have connections with three decades of students.  My entire band career has been in my hometown and now I am teaching children of former students.  I can’t imagine a world without music and getting to share that with so many, many people is truly amazing.  It’s not just a job; it’s a privilege and one that I don’t take for granted.

Can you tell me what it means to have received the PAA Teacher Wish List award? What were you able to purchase with those funds?

I am so honored to receive the PAA Teacher Wish List award. While my school district does their best to provide for all its programs, we are not a “wealthy” district by any stretch of the imagination.  Many of our students are economically disadvantaged and I spend a large part of my budget making sure we have adequate instruments and equipment for our students to use.  That doesn’t leave a lot of extra for other everyday supplies and incidentals.  With this award I was able to purchase plastic tubs for storage of uniforms, cube storage containers, labels for marching band equipment, industrial strength velcro for use with marching band props and highlighters for student use in marking music.  Even the front office staff at our high school shared our excitement as each package was delivered!  It was like an early Christmas present!  I am so very appreciative!