Nayeli Lomeli/Contributing Writer
FIU alumnus Oliver Diez is the 2020 recipient of the Francisco R. Walker Miami-Dade County Teacher of the Year award, something he considers to be the culmination of his many dreams.
Diez began teaching one week before his graduation in 1999 and had a goal: forming a concert band at an elementary school.
“I always wished I would have begun playing a band instrument at an earlier age and believe students should have the opportunity to do so at the elementary level,” said Diez.
Diez received the Teacher of the Year award on Thursday, Jan. 31.
“It is the highlight of my career, not just as a music teacher but as an educator,” he said, adding that he feels privileged and honored to represent all the other nominees.
Diez became involved with music at a very young age. He was part of the school chorus in sixth grade and began playing the saxophone in seventh grade. He grew very fond of music and decided to pursue it.
Twenty years later, he directs the beginning band, concert band, jazz combo and the chorus, and assists with the drum line at the elementary school.
Diez is also very involved with his community. In 2013, he joined 501st Legion, a non-profit organization of “Star Wars” fanatics who create their own character costumes and make appearances at hospitals, parties, walk-a-thons and charity events. All payments received go towards charity.
Diez said his biggest accomplishment however, is the growth of the performing arts program over the past 20 years, and what he loves most about his job is seeing the kids so enthusiastic and becoming so talented.
“I was never this talented at that age,” he said.
Former students often contact him through social media to share their achievements with him. He said sometimes he comes across a video of one them playing an instrument or finds out about an award they’ve won.
“It is a great [and] rewarding feeling to make an impact in their lives, whether they pursue music or not,” said Diez.
The Palmetto Elementary School concert band will be performing in March at the Carnegie Hall in New York City, which he regards as a music achievement and an amazing experience for the children and himself.
Featured photo courtesy of FIU News.