High School Music Teacher from Big Sky, Montana inspires not only his students, but the entire community

WASHINGTON, D.C. - May 1, 2017

A dynamic and inventive high school music teacher from Big Sky, Montana is Honored’s May 2017 Honoree.

John Zirkle is something like a one-man band of music education in the Big Sky School District.  At Lone Peak High School, he oversees the a cappella vocal group and the instrumental ensemble, and teaches a class in AP music theory.  He also serves as director of the Warren Miller Performing Arts Center, a district-affiliated organization that hosts nationally recognized performers as well as arts events and education.  As Zirkle says, “A critical thing to understand about rural Montana is that there aren’t many people out here.  So to make things work, everybody wears a lot of hats.”

The Honored award is focused on the Honoree’s important impact on one student.  In Zirkle’s case, that student is Anna Alvin, who has found her life transformed by his teaching.  Anna says, “Mr. Zirkle always tells us, Make big mistakes.  Don’t just wimp out and mumble through timidly — if you’re going to mess up, then mess up big.  That way at least you’re learning from it.  It’s a good way to approach music and also life.”

Zirkle’s story was composed by journalist Joshua Kosman, the renowned Classical Music Critic at the San Francisco Chronicle.  To read the full story and see photos of Zirkle with his student, Anna Alvin, please visit the Honored website at

About Honored

Honored is a national nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to recognizing and rewarding exceptional K-12 teachers, with a larger goal of creating a culture of gratitude and esteem for all teachers.  Each month we shine a spotlight on our Honorees by giving them a $5,000 cash award and sharing the stories, composed by world-class writers, of how they have changed students’ lives.  Our Honorees teach any and all subjects at public, public charter, and private schools across the country.  Honored’s National Advisory Board includes luminaries such as the internationally bestselling author Michael Lewis, Founder Charles Best, and FEED Co-founder Lauren Bush Lauren.   

For more information about Honored, please visit  For regular updates on Honored and our monthly Honorees, follow and like us on,, and

Honored Press Contact

Karen Sonneborn