UHS Educator Earns State "Heart of the Arts" Award

UHS Educator Earns State “Heart of the Arts” Award

Uxbridge Superintendent of Schools Frank Tiano is proud to announce that Kathleen Penza, Uxbridge High School music teacher and drama co-director, has earned the Massachusetts Hearts of the Arts Award and will be one of just 51 nominees for the national award.

“This is an incredible honor,” Dr. Tiano said. “Our district could not be prouder of the work that Mrs. Penza does for our students and community.”

The National Federation of High Schools has developed its “National High School Heart of the Arts Award,” which will be conferred to eight section winners, as well as one national winner. The recipient must be an individual from a high school that is a member of an NFHS-member athletic or activity association. The recipient could be any student, adult, or group associated with the school’s performing arts program. 

Mrs. Penza supervises and directs six different ensembles (concert band, symphonic band, pep band, concert choir, jazz band, Spartones a capella) and also serves as the co-director of the drama club and theater company. She is also the advisor to the Tri-M Music Honor Society. 

In the past five years, UHS' band and choir ensembles have won gold and silver medals at national competitions, seen its students recognized with participation at the district and state, and earned the highest ratings possible in competitions held at regional music festivals. In addition, she has collaborated with musicians from the College of the Holy Cross, Berklee, and the Feirstein School of Visual, Media and Performing Arts at Brooklyn College to support music education in our community.  Mrs. Penza is the founder of the Blackstone Valley Community Concert Band and was its director from 2002 - 2015.  She holds the title of BVCCB Director Emeritus. This community group provides an opportunity for continued participation in music for high school students and adults from 15 area communities.  Mrs. Penza was recognized at the Massachusetts State House with an Unsung Heroine of Massachusetts award from the MA Commission on the Status of Women in 2010 and was named UHS’ Educator of the Year in 2017.

“The key terms of the award are characteristics exemplified by Mrs. Penza on a daily basis,” said Uxbridge High School Principal Michael Rubin. “I have not encountered a better, more deserving person who embodies heart and arts. She is a gift to our community, and our students, staff, and families reap that benefit every day.” 

This award covers a plethora of performing arts disciplines: Music, Speech, Debate, Theatre, Visual Arts and other performing arts activities that state associations may sponsor. It seeks to recognize those individuals who exemplify the ideals of the positive heart of the arts that represent the core mission of education-based activities. The award may be given in recognition of a specific act or for an activity of longer duration. For example, it could be awarded to an individual (or group) that:

  • has demonstrated exemplary “heart,” sportsmanship and/or citizenship in participation as it should occur;
  • has exceeded normal expectations in assisting others within the school or community; or
  • has overcome adversity or a challenging circumstance.

“Mrs. Penza welcomes and encourages students from our most reluctant to our most involved, and all of the students who are involved with Mrs. Penza find that she gives them a ‘home,’” Mr. Rubin said. “Hers is frequently the last vehicle to leave the parking lot on school days, and she spends many an hour on weekends and nights, bringing music to youth organizations, the senior center, or the community at large.”

“There are literally thousands of students, educators, and community patrons across the Commonwealth who dedicate their life to the fine and performing arts,” Dr. Tiano said. “When we think of the core values we hope to see in all our staff and students, Mrs. Penza models perseverance, grit, creativity, and responsibility, and she encourages students to participate in so many ways - adjusting, adapting to the needs, mentoring, and shepherding musicians and educators of the future. She truly is the heart of an arts-focused community, and we are so very proud of her.”