After being surprised with the 2022-2023 Rose Award, fine arts teacher Jay Long takes a picture with his 7th Hour class. Long was one of 15 Rose Award winners, including fine arts Traci Bolton, who was congratulated moments before. (Juli Mejia)
After being surprised with the 2022-2023 Rose Award, fine arts teacher Jay Long takes a picture with his 7th Hour class. Long was one of 15 Rose Award winners, including fine arts Traci Bolton, who was congratulated moments before.

Juli Mejia

Two Lafayette teachers become Rose Award recipients for 2022-2023 school year

March 2, 2023

As an unexpected surprise to both, fine arts teachers Traci Bolton and Jason Long were awarded as two of the 15 Rose Award recipients for the 2022-2023 school year on Feb. 28. The Rose Award stands for Rockwood Outstanding Service in Education and was designed to honor individuals who show excellence of character, performance, leadership and service to the Rockwood School District. Each person is nominated by students and colleagues and is ultimately decided by ROSE selection committee.

Principal Karen Calcaterra said that she is very proud of both of the rose award nominees.

“I was very excited to have so many Rose nominees here at LHS and beyond proud that Mrs. Bolton and Mr. Long are recipients. They are both outstanding people and do great things for kids,” Calcaterra said.


Percussion students work together to nominate, recognize Long


Juli Mejia

Right after receiving the Rose Award, fine arts teacher Jay Long thanks everyone for the honor. Long has worked for Lafayette for 10 years and teaches percussion classes.

While teaching his 7th Hour Percussion 1 class, fine arts teacher Jay Long was left speechless.

Principal Karen Calcaterra, followed by Rockwood faculty, colleagues, students from other classes and family walked into the room to congratulate him for being one of the 15 Rose Award winners.

“Are you serious? Oh my god. Oh my god. This is insane,” Long said while being handed roses and balloons.

Long has been teaching at Lafayette for 10 years and primarily teaches percussion classes during 6th and 7th hour and at Rockwood Valley.

“I’m fumbling because I am just so surprised,” Long said. “This is the biggest honor that I could think of.”

Though he wasn’t 100% on what it meant when he was nominated, Long had heard about the award and what criteria get a person nominated. With dozens of staff nominations throughout the district, Long didn’t think he had the chance.

“The more I felt about [the criteria,] the more I was like ‘those are awesome and I’m super proud to be nominated, but there’s no way that I’m gonna [win,] they only pick 15 of them,'” he said. “And now I’m finding out I’m one of those 15? I’m just super surprised and very thankful.”

As a teacher, Long said he does his best to influence his students beyond the world of music.

“My ultimate job as a teacher is to teach them about percussion and band, that’s my job about music, but more importantly my job is to teach them about life and how to succeed in life and what’s worked for me, what I hope I can pass off to them,” he said.

Fine Arts Department Chair Lauren Sakowski has known Long for over 23 years.

They met in 1999 while marching for a Drum and Bugle Corps based in Iowa called the Colts. They taught together within the corps for five years and later while Sakowski was at Lafayette, a job opened up looking for a teacher that fit Long’s description. She said she is very proud of him.

“Unbelievably well deserved. He is such an amazing human being, person, and teacher. He looks intimating but I like to call him a big teddy bear. I just love that he is being honored in this way and recognized for his incredible contributions,” Sakowski said. “He’s not just a good friend, he’s family.”

Unlike Long, his students were not surprised to see him win the award. Senior Will Scott wanted Long to be recognized and decided to ask students in the two percussion classes to vote for Long for the Rose Award.

“I got everyone together and said I think it would be a really cool idea for us to write him a nomination to see what we could make happen,” Scott said.

Naming him his best teacher, Scott said he thought the nomination would be a great way to show Long how much he means to his students.

“He’s just an incredible teacher. The connection that he has with all of us. He’s like one of us, a friend to all of us,” Scott said. “A lot of us are in marching band as well, we’ve spent so much time with him and have really gotten to know him. He puts so much effort into everything he does.”

For Long, one of the best parts of being a teacher is seeing his students have their lightbulb moment.

“When a student can’t get it right away, there’s that moment that something changes, and all of a sudden they can get it. That’s what drives me to teach and that’s what makes me want to give them the best that I have because I’m asking them to give the best that they have, too. They’re awesome and I just love my students so much,” Long said.

Several of Long’s family members attended to celebrate the award with him, including Long’s two sons, Jace and Grayson. Jace was excited to miss school to congratulate his dad for being a great teacher.

“I feel like he deserved it a lot,” Jace said.

Though he said it is amazing to know he and his classmates were able to honor him in this way, Scott said it’s not about them.

“It all goes back to all the work he’s done. I’m glad we could do it for him,” Scott said.

Bolton gifted Rose Patch Converse along with Rockwood honor


Juli Mejia

Toward the end of her 5th Hour Guitar 2 class, fine arts teacher Traci Bolton takes a photo with her students for a Rockwood photographer. Bolton was congratulated for being a recipient of the Rose Award with flowers, balloons, cake and customized shoes.

“I am speechless, I am very honored. It is flattering that kids and the staff think that I am doing a great job. Any time you get that recognition, it just makes you feel good. People see that you love what you do and they appreciate it,” Traci said.

Toward the end of the 5th Hour, a large group of faculty and the Rose Committee walked into Bolton’s room to congratulate her. Seniors Kyle Dean and Logan Jaycox were the first to enter the room, each playing the guitar to the tune of one of Bolton’s favorite songs, Shape Of My Heart by Sting. Jaycox said Bolton has had a major influence on his life.

“She deserves it. She is a huge part of what made me who I am today. I think without music and without a way to put my expression into something I can actually express, I think I’d probably be more lost than I am right now,” Jaycox said.

Dean also said Bolton and music teachers in general are very impactful.

“Music is what kids listen to, so when these teachers are helping to increase how well they are doing in whatever music they are doing, it makes the kid’s whole world,” Dean said.

But Bolton said she gets a lot of her own motivation from her students as they bring their love for music to the stage.

“All of my excitement and my passion comes from the kids. I get an honest thrill from seeing them succeed. All the groups and performances I put together, they’re never about me, they’re about [students],” Bolton said.

Her husband Ed Bolton, a chemistry teacher at Marquette, was invited to attend the event to congratulate his wife. Ed said he is beyond proud of her and her determination to help change students’ lives. He finds she is able to make students passionate about music as he’s seen through random encounters with her previous students.

“We’ll be at a restaurant and somebody will walk up and be like, ‘I had your guitar class for one semester ten years ago, and I still play guitar.’ That’s just amazing,” he said. “There are kids out there that had her class and are professional musicians. They pay their bills that way, so it’s totally awesome.”

In reference to the Rose Award, Bolton was gifted a customized pair of Converse with a rose patch from the Music Department. With over 80 pairs of Converse at home, Bolton was excited to add yet another special pair to her collection.

When Calcaterra initially emailed him to invite him over, she asked him to keep it top secret. Ed said it was difficult to avoid because of his excitement.

“I wanted to blab because she’s so awesome, so you want to congratulate her and tell her how awesome she is, but you got to keep it quiet,” Ed said.

Choir teacher Christi Shaffer said she is so happy Bolton was given the award.

“Mrs. Bolton is truly one of the best educators I have ever had the pleasure of working with. She inspires colleagues and students alike, so I think she is so deserving of recognition for her efforts and her work.

The Music Department all decided to pitch in to help gift Bolton a special present as congratulations.

“It’s a pair of shoes that have roses on them, so every time I wear them I can remember that I’m a Rose Award winner,” Bolton said.

With a large collection of Converse shoes in her home, the gift had been meaningful to Bolton. But to her, the experiences as an educator is like a gift in itself.

“I come every day and get recharged from them and their excitement for it. I’m just happy to be a part of it,” she said.

Bolton also won the Outstanding Music Educator Award, presented by the St. Louis Suburban Music Educators Association, in early February of 2023.


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Juli Mejia, Editor In Chief

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