2020 Teacher of the Year:
Eric Combs is the 6th-8th grade band director at the Richland County Middle School in Olney, Illinois. Combs holds a bachelor of arts in music education, as well as a master of arts in music education, both from Eastern Illinois University. Combs has been a band teacher for 15 years, and is an active online personality in the field of music education. Combs has two Facebook blogs, “Thoughts from a Beginning Band Director,” and “Sound Beginnings.” In these, Combs shares advice, reflections, and videos with other teachers. Between his blogs and YouTube channel, Combs has over 5,000 educator followers. Combs has also written three books, two on beginner band curriculum that he shares completely for free, and a third that is a compilation of all of his blog posts. In addition to these sites, Combs is the creator, maintainer, and sponsor of the site www.banddirectorsshare.com, where educators from all over the world can share their free materials. The site had over 16,000 views from 41 countries in its first 10 months. Through donations to the site, Combs has raised money to hire a full-time instrumental instructor in an orphanage in Honduras. Combs’ bands regularly receive perfect ratings at state contest, and his program has been recognized four times as being a national “Best Communities for Music Education” school. The program has also been recognized twice by the U.S. Congress. Combs is the 2020 Illinois Teacher of the Year.