MSD Wayne Orchestra Instructor Receives State Award

Julie Stuckert is in the midst of helping 23 high school students learn a piece by composer William Hofeldt called “Lullaby,” bar by bar, line by line.

Keeping time with the metronome on her cell phone, she begins in her upbeat voice: “One, two three, ready, set, go!”

She plays seven bars or so on her viola, and the students on her laptop screen follow along with their instruments – violin, viola, cello, and bass – at home. She is successfully teaching young musicians at the Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center a challenging piece of music, entirely virtually. Her strong ability to engage students in spite of the hardships brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic may be one reason the Indiana American String Teachers Association has named Julie its Best New Teacher for 2020.

The Ball State University grad from Crown Point, Indiana is in her second year as an orchestra teacher in the MSD of Wayne Township. She “floats” between four schools: Chapel Hill 7th & 8th Grade Center, Lynhurst 7th & 8th Grade Center, the Ben Davis Ninth Grade Center, and Ben Davis High School. According to one of her fellow music teachers, it’s something she does very well.

“She is teaching kids from four different schools and co-teaching with colleagues who have very different teaching styles, which would stress out even the most veteran of teachers,” said Kristen Vance, orchestra instructor based at Lynhurst. “Despite these challenges, her love of music and our students shines every day in her classes.”

Kristen is one of four people who nominated Julie for the award. She was joined by Amy Noble, orchestra instructor for Ben Davis High School; Lori Metzger of the MSD of Washington Township; and Jessica Bouma of Portage Township Schools in northern Indiana.

“Julie holds the kids to extremely high standards while still making sure they know they are valued as individuals in our program,” Kristen said. “She makes class fun, and the kids love working with her. Our program is definitely stronger and better because of the ideas Julie brings, and her ability to read all our minds while translating what the other teachers are thinking into ‘kid-speak’ is wonderful.”

Altogether, Julie sees some 250 students between the four schools, co-teaching most classes. “My favorite thing about teaching is building relationships with students,” she said. “I love seeing them learn and grow, and getting to celebrate their successes with them.”

Julie said a number of factors went into her decision to work in MSD Wayne.

“One of the main reasons I chose Wayne was the opportunity to work with other amazing orchestra directors. I knew I didn’t want to be the only orchestra teacher in the district, which is common in more rural areas, so when I got the chance to join an amazing team of women in Wayne I knew I had to take it,” she said. “I was also already living in Indianapolis and I wanted to stay in the area, and I wanted to work with a diverse student population, both of which working in Wayne has given me.”

The Indiana ASTA says its Teacher Awards, started in 2013, aim to “recognize teachers who show exemplary skills, determination, mindfulness, and creativity in the field of string education.” The association recognized Julie at a virtual ceremony Thursday, January 14.

The Indiana Chapter of the American String Teachers Association promotes excellence in string and orchestra education and performance. In partnership with National ASTA, the mission of Indiana ASTA is to provide support, encouragement, communication, and pedagogical resources for string educators; to provide events, services, and benefits for Indiana string educators and students; and to enhance the image and visibility of string education around the state.

The Metropolitan School District of Wayne Township provides multiple pathways to success for more than 16,000 students, preschool through high school. Located on the west side of Indianapolis, MSD Wayne works in partnership with the Wayne Township community to help every learner achieve excellence. To learn more about MSD Wayne, visit, or follow us on Facebook at and Twitter @WayneTwpSchools and @WayneTwpSuper.