Published: May 29, 2013 6:31 PM EDT

LEE COUNTY, Fla.- A Fort Myers High School music educator is up for a big national award from the GRAMMY Foundation.

Mark Dahlberg is in the running for the first ever GRAMMY Foundation Music Educator Award.

He's one of 217 quarter-finalists selected from more than 30,000 nominations nationwide.

Dahlberg has been teaching music and band in Lee County for 22 years.

He is a previous Golden Apple winner and has received several other big honors as well.

His students say, no one deserves it more.

Jacob Lynch just graduated from FMHS. He says, "he's been teaching for 22 years and he still walks in smiling everyday, ready to teach, ready to have fun. He's influenced my career choice, I'm actually going into music education as a career."

Fellow former student Alexis Walker says she has wonderful memories as part of the band family for the past four years. "It's about time, he's been around for a while and he's an amazing person. I can't stress that enough. He deserves it," she says.

Other students agree, Mr. Dahlberg should take home the big award. Nishani Karunamuni says, "I don't think you could even describe him in one word because he's so capable of doing anything. He's one of the most student-centered teachers at our school."

Dahlberg says two former students' parents nominated him for the GRAMMY Music Educator Award. He says, "you teach for 22 years and you know you have impact, but is it just another year, another class, another great group of students? But to have someone periodically recognize you, it's an awesome reward and an awesome experience."

He adds, "it's also a great honor that the GRAMMYS are now recognizing music educators, the teachers that inspired a lot of these musicians to plug forward in their musical career. We stress the enjoyment of music, the entertainment of music itself, not necessarily the $30 trophy."

The next round of finalists will be announced in August, and the winner will get to go to the GRAMMY awards, in addition to prize money.