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Hillsboro-Deering music teacher one of four National Teacher of the Year finalists

Hillsboro-Deering High School music teacher Heidi Welch high-fives members of the school band after she was named New Hampshire Teacher of the Year during an assembly at the school; Monday, October 1, 2012.

( Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff)

Hillsboro-Deering High School music teacher Heidi Welch high-fives members of the school band after she was named New Hampshire Teacher of the Year during an assembly at the school; Monday, October 1, 2012. ( Alexander Cohn/ Monitor staff)

Heidi Welch, Hillsboro-Deering High School music teacher and this year’s New Hampshire Teacher of the Year, has been chosen from 54 nominees as one of four finalists for the national award.

Welch has been teaching in Hillsboro for 14 years, creating a music program with participation from more than 100 students and leading the high school band in competitions against programs three times bigger. She also uses her music classes to teach civics, history and literature, incorporating texts from the same era as the music the students are learning.

Since the announcement, “my Facebook page has exploded, my email box has exploded. It’s an incredible feeling to know how loved and cared for you are,” she said. “It’s hard to find the words to talk about it. All I can do is keep being myself and give my thoughts about what we do and why teaching is the greatest profession in the world.”

In March, she’ll be interviewed by the national Teacher of the Year selection committee, which announces a winner in April. The winner is released from classroom duties for the next school year to travel around the country and internationally.

It would be a bittersweet prize for Welch to leave the classroom she loves, and during her step-daughter’s senior year.

“I know the pros would outweigh the cons because of everything I could learn. . . . I would be so lucky and honored to win, because I would get to see classrooms all over the country and abroad, so that would inform me in my teaching and let me bring more skills back to my classroom,” she said.

Welch’s competition for the top honor is Jeffrey Charbonneau of Washington; Rhonda Holmes-Blankenship, of Maryland; and Alexandre S. Lopes of Florida. The only other New Hampshire teacher to make it to the finalist round was Marilyn “Willy” Black in 1979, an art teacher at the Ray School in Hanover; she went on to win.

Welch said yesterday that when she was given a chance to conduct the Boston Pops in December 2011, after being nominated by her student, she thought, “What could be better than this?”

“To be honored again is so amazing, and I don’t know where this journey’s gonna end, but I know I’ll be right back in Hillsboro.”

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