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Heidi Welch

New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, National Teacher of the Year Finalist, and Keene State Music Graduate

Photo by Lawrence Jackson
Photo by Lawrence Jackson

"This is kind of the house that Heidi built," says Heidi Welch ’96, sitting in the large, colorful music room at Hillsboro-Deering High School in central New Hampshire. "Everything here is what I wanted to see. I wanted to see a program grow. I wanted to see my kids’ names on the walls. I wanted to see my kids use this space and feel ownership of this space through the courses that I teach. I did build this. I’m very, very proud of it, and nobody messes with it."

Armed with a music education degree from Keene State, Welch took an almost nonexistent music program at a small, rural high school and developed it into one that features a 65-member chorus, a 45-member band, guitar classes, and courses including Musical Theater Appreciation, American History Through Music, and Film Music. Along the way, she’s sent numerous graduates off to college and university music programs and to careers in performance and music teaching. She’s earned a master’s degree and started work on a doctorate.

And she’s picked up some very impressive awards, including being selected as New Hampshire Teacher of the Year and one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year for 2013 - a distinction that earned her a trip to the White House to meet President Barack Obama.

Not bad for a teacher who, growing up in an unstable family, found security and encouragement in the band room - and who wants to provide the same for her own students. "We treat this very much like a family," she says of the music program at Hillsboro-Deering. "This is a place where I want them to feel safe, where I want them to feel loved, where I want them to feel supported, where I will keep extremely high expectations. The expectations musically are high; my expectations for them academically are high. I want them to be smart, I want them to be musicians, not just players and singers, and at the same time I want them to feel like when they come in this room, they’re going to feel their support system. And I tell them all the time, you are a member of this family."