Metro East District ACE Award

Armstrong Elementary School Parent Teacher Organization, Cottage Grove

Nominated by Mallory Martin, Armstrong Elementary School

Presented by Amy B. Johnson, Metro East District Chair

This year’s Metro East ACE Award was given to Armstrong Elementary School’s Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) in Cottage Grove. On July 29th, 2020, we celebrated the award with a socially-distanced ceremony at the school. The choir director, Mallory Martin, five PTO members, Principal Andrew Caflisch, and Metro East District Chair Amy Johnson gathered to honor the great work of this group. We finished with cookies (store-bought with sanitized wrappers, of course) which created even more ceremony when one PTO member’s daughter lost her tooth! It was memorable in all the ways we will remember 2020: face masks, awkwardly standing 6 feet apart, trying to interpret body language about who is comfortable moving closer and who isn’t, and making sure to sanitize everything more than once. Most importantly, it honored a group who is doing the important work of breaking down barriers, uplifting music education, and encouraging ACDA-MN’s youngest singers to become part of something bigger than their school.

Here’s how they do all those amazing things, as outlined by Mallory:

Long before a scholarship was established for honor choir members, the Armstrong Elementary PTO saw a need for financial support for students and families pursuing the honor choir program.

The PTO’s first contribution was supporting an annual bake sale to offset audition fees. They provided starter cash for change, and staffed the bake sale. The PTO provided a place to store the money. They also provided ideas, advice, and guidance in hosting a bake sale so it would be successful. The early years of the bake sale were so successful that 100% of audition fees were covered for every student who wanted to audition. This broke down a barrier and allowed students to be accepted into honor choir who would have been prevented from auditioning in the first place.

As the annual bake sales continued to succeed, they earned enough profit to cover not only audition fees but also contribute toward participation fees. With support from the PTO, students were able to sing in the honor choir when they would not have been able to afford the participation fee otherwise.

The PTO is so supportive of music in our school that state honor choir is now a line item in their budget—money is set aside every year to guarantee that every student who wants to audition may do so for free and that students who get accepted will be able to participate no matter what. Between the FMC scholarship for honor choir and the PTO’s support, Armstrong students are able to sing in the state honor choir each year who otherwise would not have participated.

It is for these reasons that the Armstrong Elementary School PTO in Cottage Grove is this year’s Metro East District ACE award recipient.

Here is a YouTube video of the 5-minute “ceremony”:

Congratulations to the Armstrong Elementary School PTO and thank you for everything you do to make choral music available to every student in your school!