Even in a district known for its high-quality teaching, Andrew Grega stands out.

Even in a district known for its high-quality teaching, Andrew Grega stands out.

Grega, a vocal music instructor who teaches grades 5-12, was named the Grandview Heights City School District's 2013-14 Teacher of the Year at the Aug. 12 staff convocation.

He was "totally in shock" when his name was announced, Grega said.

"There are so many good teachers in this district," he said. "The first thing I thought was, 'Why me?'

"I'm very gratified. It's a huge honor."

Grega in his 12th year in Grandview.

"It's a very easy environment and a great place to be," he said. "First, we have great students and parents in this district, and I'm fortunate to work with colleagues who are so supportive and encouraging of each other."

A desire to play music was instrumental in Grega's interest in vocal music and a teaching career.

He started playing piano in elementary school "and my original interest was to play piano for the school choir," he said.

But somewhere along the line, "singing music began to hook me," he said. "I began to be affected by the sense of accomplishment I got from singing in the choir."

His high school choir teacher helped influence his love of vocal music and sparked his interest in teaching, he said.

"My teacher showed such caring and support for her students," Grega said. "It just seemed like teaching music would be such a fun thing to do."

The reality of teaching is that is much more than just "fun," he said.

"It's more fulfilling and a greater responsibility than I thought it would be when I was in high school," Grega said. "Then, I just thought about the fun of teaching music."

"Music is just the tool" he uses to teach the really important lessons to his students, he said.

Students who participate in vocal music are learning how to work together as a team, Grega said.

"It pulls together so many people from so many walks of life," he said. "You can look across the room and see people from different backgrounds coming together for a common goal.

"The social aspect of being in a choir is probably more important than learning the music," Grega said.

Although he originally wanted to teach only high school students, Grega said, he considers himself lucky to be able to teach students as young as fifth-graders.

It offers a chance for him to build a connection with students over many years and allows continuity as students make the transition from middle school to high school choir, he said.

"I get to spend eight or nine years with our students," Grega said. "When I'm watching them walk across stage at graduation, I can't help but think about them when they were in fifth and sixth grade and how much they've grown as people."

And how much their voices have changed over the years, he said, laughing.

Grega said he doesn't consider winning the Teacher of the Year award "to be an arrival."

"What it does is inspire me to work harder to grow as a teacher," he said. "It's a huge honor I don't take lightly."