Erick Saoud Honored With Little Rock Family's Amazing Middle School Educator Award
Episcopal Percussion Instructor Erick Saoud received the Little Rock Family Amazing Middle School Educator of the Year Award during a surprise presentation in Chapel Thursday, October 26. Little Rock Family, the state's leading parenting magazine, opened nominations to all public, private, and parochial schools in Central Arkansas in August. The awards are given annually to one elementary, middle, high school, and special needs teacher, and include a $1,000 gift from award sponsor, Delta Dental.
Mr. Saoud built the Episcopal Middle and Upper School Percussion Program from the ground up to become the premiere program in the state and region. The Steelcats, Episcopal's steel drum band, is in constant demand to perform at community events.
"As a teacher, Erick is highly dedicated, he really is," said colleague and friend Stephen Vano, Episcopal's Choir Director. "He is very gifted with kids and as a musician himself. He has a finite number of instruments but he always finds a way to get every child involved. He tries to make sure every child can take his class, and if they can't due to schedule conflicts, he creates extra time for them. He regularly gives up lunch and advisory to work with students outside of class."
Mr. Saoud also arranges opportunities for his students to learn outside of class through summer camps at Southern Illinois University and PASIC, the Percussion Arts Society International Conference. He regularly brings in top guest artists to work with and mentor students. This year, those include Dr. Mike Vercelli from West Virginia University and Dr. Norman Weinberg of the University of Arizona.
Mr. Saoud maintains close relationships and contacts with leading percussionists around the country, and Episcopal students benefit from those.
"One year, Episcopal hosted Nexis, the top percussion ensemble in the world," said Vano. "They were blown away by what Erick was doing with the kids.
"They are learning all the drumming and keyboard techniques, and all sorts of instrumentation, not to mention the work he does on ethno music where students are learning cultural ideas through music," added Vano.
As a musician, Saoud performs regularly with the Arkansas Symphony Orchestra, which requires an incredible amount of preparation for this full-time teacher and father of two.
"He has a goal in mind each day that he wants to achieve, yet he wants us to achieve that goal in the most fun and enjoyable way possible," said Senior Carter Bowden.
"Each day in class, he is always filled with positive energy that really translates to his students. When we see him getting into each song with a big smile on his face, we're motivated to put forth our best effort each day," said Bowden.
"He gave me an appreciation for music that I could not live without," said Caleb Dowell '16, a student of Mr. Saoud's for six years. "It has become my sanctuary. He taught me not only how to read it, but how to understand it, and it has, in turn, made me into a fuller person. He is a great teacher, a great comic, and a great friend."