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Caring choir teacher instills confidence in students

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — February’s Golden Apple Award winner helps students shine on and off the stage in Pike Township. Now, her choir and musical theater students are singing her praises.

Mrs. Amy Kamwendo makes all of her students the stars at Guion Creek Middle School by supporting them with love. Through singing, she sparks confidence and shapes students for years to come.

Kamwendo is the February winner of the WISH-TV Golden Apple Award. WISH-TV is Indiana’s education station, and every month, News 8 honors outstanding teachers with the Golden Apple Award

Inside Guion Creek Middle School, you will likely hear the musical magic and the teacher that makes the song within her students come alive.

“She made me realize that I can act and I can sing. And not feel ashamed or embarrassed. And she just makes me feel really loved and I am really grateful for her,” Jasmine Martinez, a seventh-grade student, said.

Martinez is talking about Kamwendo and her ability to get students to shine in choir, in musical theater, and most of all, in life.

“She definitely pours her happiness and brightness onto other students,” Rhian Brooks, an eighth-grade student, said. “To know that there is someone that does care for us and that does want us to be who we truly are. And I think everyone appreciates that as a whole.”

“She is just bright, energetic, and happy all of the time,” another eighth grader, Cannon Johnson, said. “She just makes the experience really happy for everyone and I love that.” 

“She has just this beautiful personality,” Martinez added. “If you’re having a really bad day and you go into her class, you will immediately start to feel better because that is just how amazing she is. It’s like she has a little superpower.”

Love is her superpower. Music is her magic. And staying positive is key to her success.

“She is kind of a bubble of positivity,” Guion Creek Middle School Principal Trachell Taylor said.

According to Taylor, Kamwendo can spark confidence in anyone.

“Putting them in a position where they can see themselves shine – automatically boosts their confidence and makes them want to participate in the arts,” Taylor said. 

Kamwendo even has staff sing and dance alongside students. She pulls off massive productions ranging from “Annie” to “Aladdin.”

“She puts on this elaborate theater performance that is just amazing for middle school students,” Taylor said.

Kamwendo is turning “High School Musical” into a middle school reality.

“It’s an event. They sell tickets and it is set up in the auditorium like a musical theater. There are tables and the stage and props and set and costumes and lighting. I mean it is not your typical middle school performance,” Kelly Looper, school librarian, said.

Kamwendo’s coworkers can’t stop singing her praises.

“She is an incredible human with the patience of a saint, because it takes so much energy to do choir and theater, and do that all day long, and she just does it with a smile,” Crystal Riley, one of Kamwendo’s fellow teachers, said. 

Kamwendo teaches by example and doesn’t miss a beat.

“She can bring the volume when she needs to. If a mic dies – she is ready to belt it out,” Riley said.

WISH-TV shows Mrs. Kamwendo surprise video. (WISH Photo)

“She is kind of that ball of fire — but everything is happy,” Looper added.

Happiness is how she sets the stage at school and sets students up for success. Some have even sung at Indiana Pacers games or performed in community theater.

“She changes the kids’ lives. She fights for these kids. She loves these kids. She wants the best for them now and the best for them in the future,” Looper said.

So, she deserves the best too. Taylor nominated Kamwendo for the WISH-TV Golden Apple award and was thrilled when she won. 

“I thought it was just absolutely amazing and I know she is probably going to cry, but I am excited to see her get recognized and celebrated because she is truly deserving of it,” Taylor said. 

News 8’s Hanna Mordoh went to put her in the limelight on Kamwendo and surprised her during class. 

The Golden Apple Award comes with a trophy, a $500 school supply shopping spree at Teachers’ Treasures, and a special video featuring students and staff.

“I am shocked,” Kamwendo said. “Just all of the faces of family and friends, wow! Thank you.”

Kamwendo says she was inspired to be a teacher by her own music teacher.

When our crew told Kamwendo that her students said she gives them confidence, she said, “As a teacher, that is your dream. You want to give kids confidence and that is just really moving. Thank you.”

After the video featuring students and staff, Kamwendo was in tears and could hardly speak. She was able to say: “I am just so blown away.”

When asked what keeps her so motivated, Kamwendo replied, “I think we have the best kids here. We are so blessed at Guion and Pike. I think our kids are phenomenal. They are like family to me.”

She added, “Never underestimate what a child can do. I think they rise to the level of expectation we have for them, and when you expect great things, they are going to be great.”

WISH-TV surprises Mrs. Kamwendo. (WISH Photo)

In this class, it’s not the tune or tempo that truly counts. The hook’s in this teacher, the voice she gives her students — a sound that’s simply pitch-perfect.

Kamwendo and her students are currently working on “Shrek the Musical Jr.” It will debut in April.

To watch other Golden Apple Award recipients, click this link.

To nominate a deserving teacher for next month’s Golden Apple Award, submit a detailed nomination here.