WESLEY CHAPEL — A sign posted in music teacher Karen Reinhold's class at Watergrass Elementary School reads, "Music is not what I do, it's who I am."
The sentiment has carried Reinhold through a 30-year career as a music educator, and now she has won the 2013-14 Music Education Service Award from the Florida Music Educators Association.
"It's hard to believe it's been 30 years," said Reinhold, 54, "but it's satisfying to be honored this way. It feels good."
As a music educator, Reinhold seeks to instill her own love for all kinds of music — Christian, country, rock, Broadway — in students of all levels.
"Music is a lifelong thing for everyone," she said. "The love for music never leaves you. You hear it every day. You carry it with you."
The Illinois native has brought her love for music to Lake Myrtle Elementary, Denham Oaks Elementary and Wesley Chapel Elementary since settling with her family in Pasco County in the early 1990s, She has been teaching music at Watergrass Elementary since 2009, overseeing student choral groups, and organizing concerts, programs and musicals.
"The key to teaching music to children is to make it fun," said Reinhold. "I encourage students to get up and move around, to sing and dance."
Reinhold also incorporates the use of musical instruments in class, encouraging kids to pound away on drums and bongos. She gets up and dances with them, passing around a microphone so everyone has a chance to sing.
She has given her students the chance to perform publicly at places like Tampa International Airport and the Shops at Wiregrass. And she has helped autistic students perform concerts for their families.
"The thing I love about working with Karen is that she's flexible, kind and open to new ideas," said Amy Nickerson, also a music teacher at Watergrass Elementary. "She always comes up with new ways to do things."
Outside of school, Reinhold — the daughter of a minister who sang at her father's church as a child — leads a children's choir at Idlewild Baptist Church. In the past she has joined other Pasco music educators to stage Broadway-style revues to benefit music education programs in the county.
She plans to continue teaching for several more years, and then give church-based music lessons at Idlewild after she retires.
No matter where she goes or what she does, she plans "to keep the music in my life."