Leila Ramagopal Pertl leads students in song during a music class at Edison Elementary School in Appleton.
Leila Ramagopal Pertl leads students in song during a music class at Edison Elementary School in Appleton. (Photos by Danny Damiani)

Leila Ramagopal Pertl '87, instructor of music education at Lawrence University, is among 10 recipients of the Fox Cities Chamber’s 2024 Excellence in Education Shining Star Awards.

The 10 Fox Cities educators will be honored at an awards ceremony March 21. One of the 10 will be named Educator of the Year.

Ramagopal Pertl, who splits her day between teaching at Lawrence and teaching in the Appleton Area School District’s Edison Elementary School, was cited for her work with Lawrence’s “Lab School” and building other connections between Lawrence and her elementary school students.

Leila Ramagopal Pertl taps a drum during a class at Edison Elementary School.
Leila Ramagopal Pertl splits her time between teaching at Lawrence University and Edison Elementary School in Appleton. Her Lawrence music students join her at Edison as part of a Lab School partnership.

The Lab School is an extension of collaborative work that has been ongoing between Lawrence and Edison, the closest elementary school to the Lawrence campus. 

“Over the years, I would take my Lawrence classes over to the school as a group so they could get hands-on experience teaching the lessons that they created,” Ramagopal Pertl said. “The Edison music teachers were always generous with their time and knowledge. But our Lawrence Music Education Department had a bigger dream—what if we could create a Lab School where Lawrence students could learn from their Lawrence professors in an actual public school environment?"

In 2022, that opportunity presented itself when the 3rd-6th grade music position opened at Edison. Ramagopal Pertl jumped at the chance to make the Lab School dream a reality, collaborating with AASD Fine Arts Coordinator Renee Reimer Ulman '94 and Edison Principal Katie Schmeltzer.

Ramagopal Pertl now teaches Lawrence classes in the morning, then heads to Edison in the afternoon, joined by some of her Lawrence pre-service music students.

“Nothing compares to classroom experience as we train the next generation of life-changing music educators,” she said. “The Lawrence-Edison Lab School partnership is a dream come true.” 

Joey O'Connor, a Lawrence music education student, teaches at Edison Elementary.
Joey O'Connor, a Lawrence music education student, teaches at Edison Elementary as part of the Lab School.

In its award citation, the Chamber said, “Ms. Pertl approaches her students with the belief that they have unlimited potential, and she provides the instruction and encouragement for her students to create, grapple with, and perform music at a level far beyond what is normally seen at the elementary grade level. Leila has turned her elementary music classrooms into a Lab School for Lawrence music education students, enriching the lives of the young students and pre-professional music education students.”

Ramagopal Pertl helped lead the Children’s Concert at Memorial Chapel in early February, a performance by Lawrence music students designed for a young audience. And she leads the Music Education Team that presents interactive music events throughout the Mile of Music festival in downtown Appleton each August. 

Discover a forward-thinking, pre-professional training program that prepares you to transform young lives through music teaching.

Ramagopal Pertl called it a thrill to be chosen for the Chamber award from among the more than 150 nominations.

“There are extremely talented educators in the Fox Valley, so it means the world to not only be able to celebrate our accomplishments in pedagogy but to have the teaching art form uplifted by the Fox Cities Chamber of Commerce in such a beautiful way,” she said. “It will be an honor to celebrate the event with my Lawrence and Edison colleagues.”