Banks named Sally Wilson Distinguished Educator Award winner for 2014

Dr. Donna Banks, pictured front row, middle, is pictured with Goodman Campus Phi Theta Kappa Kappa Alpha Chapter advisors Laura Canard, Tonya Lawrence, Will Alexander and Billy Wilson.
Dr. Donna Banks, pictured front row, middle, is pictured with Goodman Campus Phi Theta Kappa Kappa Alpha Chapter advisors Laura Canard, Tonya Lawrence, Will Alexander and Billy Wilson.

Goodman Campus music instructor Dr. Donna Banks has been named the Sally Wilson Distinguished Educator Award winner for 2014.

The Sally Wilson Award is named for former educator Sally Wilson, who taught both English and business courses at Holmes and was one of the early Phi Theta Kappa advisors on the Goodman Campus. The student body nominates instructors who they deem worthy of being named a most distinguished educator and submits an entry on his or her behalf.  All candidates are contacted and asked to fill out specific questions related to his or her educational background, experience, publications, and so on.  A panel compiled of students and advisors review the nominee’s entries and score them based on a rubric using the aforementioned categories.   

Banks, who came to Holmes in the fall of 2008, holds a bachelor’s degree from Lambuth College, a master’s degree from Georgia State University and a doctorate from the University of Oklahoma.

The 30-year college music educator and Memphis native said she was surprised to be nominated for this award and receiving it was a big surprise.

“I received an email a few weeks ago saying that I had been nominated for this award, and yes, I was very surprised,” Dr. Banks said. “They asked me to submit answers to several questions regarding professional activities, recognitions and continuing education. After I submitted my answers, I received a note from Mr. (Will) Alexander verifying that my document had been received. That was the last I heard until my name was called at the assembly, so yes, I was completely surprised! They were all really sneaky!”

“Mrs. Wilson must have had quite a teaching legacy,” Banks said. “I saw that she had degrees in English and also taught business. I was terribly afraid of my undergraduate English teacher, but l learned to write a respectable paragraph and that skill has been a big help to me over the years.

“When my children were small and I was working on my advanced degree, I ran my own music teaching studio involving 50 or so pre-college students,” she added. “I surely could have used Mrs. Wilson’s business help at that time in my life. Surprisingly, working with so many different youngsters was great preparation for my later teaching life. I had seen so many different learning styles, and so had experiences trying to explain difficult musical concepts in many different ways.”

She is thankful to the students who took the time to nominate her. “I’m so pleased the students nominated me—both for me and for my hard-working departmental colleagues,” Banks said. “My hope for the students is that they really dream, and use 100 percent of their skill and intellect to see just how excellent they can become—far and above what anything in a class demands.

“I’ve been an arts educator for over 40 years, and I believe more than ever that study in the arts has great power over the intellect of young students,” she said. “Nothing else they study engages so many senses at once—sight, sound, touch.  In ensembles, even more is required, because students must be aware of other parts as well.  Is music a hobby? Of course it is—but I think it is also an extremely important teaching tool for children.”

Prior to Holmes, she worked at Delta State University from 1989-2008. She ran her own independent studio from 1987-1989 and completed her doctorate degree from the University of Oklahoma in 1990 after serving as a graduate assistant in 1984-85.

Banks has spent much of her work life as an officer on the Executive Board of the Mississippi Music Teachers Association. She was elected secretary in 1990 and has since served as parliamentarian, vice-president for Competitions, vice-president for Pre-College Auditions, president-elect, and president. She also has served as local auditions coordinator from 1991-present.

In 2006, she was presented with an award from Delta State University called the “Foundation Prize for Excellence in Teaching.” In 2008, she was presented an award called a “Foundation Fellow” from the membership of Mississippi Music Teachers in recognition for service to the students and teachers of Mississippi.  She served as an AP music theory reader for five years. She served on the Faculty Senate at DSU and was the faculty advisor for MU PHI EPSILON, a national music academic fraternity and was Secretary-Treasurer, in charge of membership for PI KAPPA LAMBDA, a national music honor society. 

At Holmes, Banks has written several Development Foundation mini-grants which allowed her department to get the necessary equipment to use available music technology and the most up-to-date music theory textbooks for her students. She attends the Mississippi Music Teacher Conference and Workshops each year and Music Teachers National Conference and Workshops almost every year.

She is an active adjudicator and has four judging events this spring, one of which when she hosted local auditions for MMTA April 5 here at Holmes. She has served as accompanist for the Holmes Community College Concert Choir, Coachmen, voice majors, some instrumental majors and Phi Theta Kappa induction ceremonies. She is also the accompanist at Madison United Methodist Church in her hometown of Madison.