The Bear Lake Elementary community pays tribute to one of the district’s most beloved music teachers, as she dances her way into retirement
This school year’s spring concerts, ensemble performances, and end-of-year music programs at Bear Lake Elementary carried a heavy weight of emotions for students, teachers, and parents, as they knew these would be their last experiences with the irreplaceable Dr. Artie Almeida, a passionate music teacher who has brought joy to the classroom and inspired a love of music for generations of students.
A music teacher in public schools for 37 years and a teacher at Bear Lake for 30, Artie has watched the school grow from a small campus of only 600 students to a larger home to more than 1,000 children and a dedicated faculty and staff.
“I had no idea how long I would be at Bear Lake,” says Artie, “but I was always supported 100 percent and more by the administration, parents, and the PTA, so I was able to grow a huge program.”
Throughout the years, Artie remained true to her teaching theme of “Heavy Academics, Delivered Joyfully!” by inventing child-friendly, dynamic, active, and surprising ways to teach music. Bear Lake students and alumni will delight in the memory of learning quarter notes, eighth notes, or tempo terms by riding stick horses, bouncing kickballs, or using stuffed bean-bag toys. And they’ll likely never forget using ribbon streamers, drumsticks, and trash cans when learning and responding to the music of great historical composers.
Thanks to the constant support from the Bear Lake PTA, Artie was able to operate two extra-curricular music ensembles, which together involved more than 200 children singing, playing instruments, and performing routines accompanied by glow-in-the-dark props and flashlights.
Artie has also witnessed Bear Lake’s music room transform from a set-aside space in the auditorium to a large art and music suite built in 1990. And over the years, it’s become a part of her.
“I have probably spent as much time in my Bear Lake music room as I have in my home over the last 10 years,” says Artie. “It takes hours of paperwork, prop production, and more to manage the after-school groups, on top of the 1,000 children a week who come to the general music classes.”
Over the years, the room slowly filled with many new instruments and musical teaching supplies, but most importantly, its walls have absorbed the priceless sound of children dancing and making music with their talented teacher.
As a special surprise on the last day of school, Artie and the PTA invited the professional five-piece Celtic band Off Kilter to perform for the students and staff. The band was happy to show up, play, and even show children an up-close view of the rock band instruments they use, as well as traditional instruments that add a Celtic twist, including the bagpipes and fiddle.
“When the drums and bagpipes kicked in on the first number, the children’s jaws dropped!” Artie recalls with a smile.
In preparation for Artie’s upcoming retirement this year, the PTA and School Advisory Council (SAC) together decided to rename the music room in honor of their remarkable teacher.
“After 30 years of Dr. Almeida’s devotion to Bear Lake Elementary and its students, it was only fitting for the PTA to ask Seminole County to formally dedicate the school’s music room to Artie,” says PTA vice president Laura Galante. “She watched its construction in 1990 and has since filled its walls with music and dancing. Now when children enter through this door, they will remember Dr. Almeida and her pure joy and love of music.”
The PTA, SAC committee, and school administration surprised Artie with this dedication during the fifth-grade awards program in the last week of school.
“When the PTA said it was going to be named after me, I just couldn’t believe it,” says Artie. “I could not have ever asked for a better gift, a better way to finish my career, and a better way to still feel connected to my beloved Bear Lake when I leave. I will treasure their pictures forever!”
After an emotional week of saying farewell to her Bear Lake family and walking out of her music room doors for the last time (during which Artie made sure to play one last song and dance to her favorite ABBA tune, “Thank You for the Music,” before turning off the lights), Artie drove away, honking her car horn all the way down Gleaves Court.
“It’s always been a tradition to honk the bus horns whenever the ensembles were coming home from a concert appearance,” Artie explains. “It tells our neighbors that the Bear Lake Sound is back in town! I thought I’d let everyone know that I had a great run, I was happy that I found my perfect place in the musical universe, and I will never, ever, forget my times as the Bear Lake music teacher.”
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