2021 Distinguished Educator Award to be presented to Sandra Polcyn

Sandra Polcyn will receive the 2021 Distinguished Educator Award during Ripon College’s Commencement.

While the ceremony is limited to graduates and their families, the event will be streamed live and available to watch at ripon.edu/commencement

Polcyn grew up in Chilton, Wisconsin, and graduated from Lawrence University with a bachelor of music degree in instrumental music education. She later received a master’s degree in curriculum instruction from Olivet University.

After teaching music in the Green Lake Public School system, she joined the staff of Ripon High School in 2000 and currently directs the bands. She also is an adjunct instructor of music at Ripon College, teaching courses on instrumental methods and woodwind techniques as well as lessons in double reeds.

She is known for her work ethic and commitment to her students and has inspired generations of budding Wisconsin musicians.

But she says she became an educator “by accident.” She went to the University of Wisconsin-Fox Valley for two years where she played in band and jazz ensemble, even though she was majoring in math, business and psychology.

When she transferred to Lawrence University in Appleton, she wanted to continue playing, but “the only way I could play in the band at that time was if I was a music major. I said, ‘OK, make me a music major.’”

Although she was just three credits shy of a math degree and three credits shy of a psychology degree, “I never went back and finished those out,” she says. “I fell in love with music education and stayed.”

She feels music is important for students to study. “It’s such a creative outlet for students,” she says. “They can find that emotional release, explore themselves and the world around them through music.

“I love everything about being an educator. I love being with the students. They teach me, sometimes, more than I teach them. I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else.”


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