NPJ Teacher Feature: Danny Von Kanel

By Holly Penta

Danny Von Kanel, who won the “Service Above Self” award from the Natchitoches Rotary Club in 2016, is a 5th and 6th grade music teacher at East Natchitoches Elementary and Middle School. As well as being a teacher, he is a husband, father, grandfather, and director for the East Natchitoches School of Fine Arts.

The school of fine arts gives 3rd through 12th grade students the chance to participate in various art classes including piano, drama, voice, violin, and many more. Since the school opened five years ago, over 200 children have participated. Each year, 45-60 kids participate in the program. There is no audition process so any child willing to put in the work is able to participate. All they have to do is sign a contract.

Von Kannel has a “zero tolerance” behavior policy, ensuring that the ones who come to the East Natchitoches School of Fine Arts really want to be there. Many would never have had a chance to take art lessons without Von Kanel’s school, since outside lessons can be expensive.

“Every student needs that opportunity,” said Von Kanel. “A chance to explore the arts.”

Von Kanel commutes weekly from way outside of Natchitoches Parish. He is from Franklinton, Louisiana, which is about four and a half hours away. Every Friday afternoon he drives home, and every Sunday, he drives back to Natchitoches.

Most teachers would never make this commitment, but Von Kannel says that he has made an investment of time (nine years), He loves the school, the staff, and the students.

“I get all my fulfillment in the School of Fine Arts and I know that this is exactly where I’m supposed to be,” he said.