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Wadena VFW honors WDC music teacher

Photo by Dana Pavek/WDC Schools Wadena-Deer Creek music teacher, Mike Ortmann, was recently honored by the VFW as their "Teacher of the Year." He's pictured here surrounded by sixth-grade students at WDC Elementary during music class.1 / 2
Photo by Steve Schulz Ortmann, second from right, was surrounded by Jimmy White, representing the VFW, WDC Superintendent Virginia Dahlstrom and WDC High School Principal Tyler Church.2 / 2

Wadena-Deer Creek School music teacher, Mike Ortmann, was selected as the VFW Teacher of the Year for his work in promoting awareness of military veterans.

The local Wadena VFW Post 3922 selected Ortmann as its "Teacher of the Year" in November 2009. His nomination then went to the VFW District competition where he was selected as the best in the district from more than 50 VFW posts.

Ortmann was honored at the VFW district conference on Saturday, Feb. 6 in Wadena. Ortmann's selection was forwarded to the state competition.

The award recognizes Ortmann for his efforts in organizing the annual Veteran's Day program at WDC High School. The programs are moving musical tributes to military veterans.

Ortmann said he strongly believes in teaching youth to appreciate the sacrifices veterans of all wars have endured.

"I believe it is important to show our students the efforts and sacrifices that so many people have given to our country," Ortmann said. "We need to be very proud of those service men and women for their dedication to serve and also to the families of these people who also give so much in support of these service men and women."

Since 1990, Ortmann has taught all of the high school choirs, including sixth-grade music at WDC Elementary. He says he enjoys seeing students mature as musicians, but more importantly, as responsible young adults.

A native of Windom, Minn., Ortmann grew up in a family with musical roots. "Music has always been an important part of our family growing up," Ortmann explained. "My mother has been teaching private lessons for many years. She's been a huge influence on me."

Ortmann also credits his high school choir and band teachers for their positive influence on his decision to be a music educator. A graduate of the University of Minnesota-Morris, Ortmann received a bachelor of arts degree in music education.

At an early age, Ortmann sang in his church choir, oftentimes taking on the role as song leader. In college, he was involved in many small singing groups that would perform in a variety of settings. Besides sharing his talents as a teacher at WDC, Ortmann's strong and deep singing voice is often heard at weddings and funerals in the community.

Ortmann said he is honored and humbled to receive the local and district VFW Teacher of the Year awards.

"I would like to thank the VFW for this award and also for the support that they have given to the WDC schools with our veteran activities," Ortmann said. "I believe it's important that schools and communities form a strong partnership in recognizing our military veterans - both past and present."