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Honoring Harpeth Hall Faculty for a Remarkable Year

Honoring Harpeth Hall Faculty for a Remarkable Year
Honoring Harpeth Hall Faculty for a Remarkable Year

This has been an extraordinary school year.

Through the strength and perseverance of our entire community, we have overcome the many challenges placed before us.

More than anything else, the dedication of Harpeth Hall’s faculty and staff made it all possible.

On Tuesday, Harpeth Hall celebrated our beloved educators with the annual faculty recognition assembly. Always one of the students' favorite assemblies, this year the event sparked extra joy as we honored and celebrated the hard work, collaboration, fortitude, and flexibility of our classroom leaders.

“This past year has shown me to a greater extent the importance of teachers in our world and the great measures that they have taken to make sure that we are receiving the best education possible," said Hannah King '21, who was chosen by her class to represent the students during this week's special assembly. "To say that they are heroes is an understatement.”

Harpeth Hall is fortunate to have a steadfast community of educators who work tirelessly to make sure students are set up for success as they become leaders in and out of the classroom. During the assembly, Director of the Upper School, Armistead Lemon, and Director of the Middle School, Judi O'Brien, joined Head of School Jess Hill in honoring faculty and staff members who have been at Harpeth Hall for 10, 15, 20, 25, and, yes, even 35 years.

Harpeth Hall's longest-tenured faculty member, Dr. Art Echerd, received a standing ovation from the students when he approached the stage, recognized for his more than three decades of educating girls at Harpeth Hall.

“It takes a certain type of person to be a teacher," Hannah said. "It takes someone who is patient, kind, understanding, motivating, adaptable, and has a personal love for learning. I can say with full confidence that every teacher at Harpeth Hall embodies each of those characteristics and more.”

Three Harpeth Hall teachers received recognition for their teaching excellence: Middle School science teacher Elsa Davids, Visual Art Department Chair Carmen Noel, and Upper School orchestra teacher Lori McDermott. Ms. Hill also honored Nancy Turner, who retired this school year as chair of the performing arts department after joining Harpeth Hall in 2003.

“I believe in patience; I believe in hope; I believe in community; I believe in females. I believe in education, and specifically, I believe in female education. But above all,” Hannah said. “I believe in the people that make female education possible. I believe in the power of teachers. Thank you to the Harpeth Hall teachers, staff, and community members. You are what we believe in.”

Heath Jones Prize for the Promise of Excellence in Teaching

​The Heath Jones Prize for the Promise of Excellence in Teaching was awarded to Ms. Elsa Davids, Middle School Science Teacher. This prize is dedicated to A. Heath Jones, teacher and academic dean at Harpeth Hall from 1984 to 1996. It is awarded to a full-time teacher who has had five-years or less of classroom experience, and who has taught at Harpeth Hall for two years or more.

Head of School, Jess Hill, spoke to Ms. Davids time at Harpeth Hall. "This year's Heath Jones Award recipient sets a high standard for the craft of teaching by always remaining a student herself and relishing in innovative teaching practices and research-based approaches to learning… It is abundantly clear to all who meet her that she is a rising star with all of the qualities one needs to become a masterful teacher.” Ms. Davids’ describe her classroom as engaging, challenging, and joyful. She inspires her students to see themselves as scientists, and to value the struggle in finding solutions to complex and interesting problems. “Ms. Davids,” Ms. Hill concluded, “goes about her work with great humility and confidence, and she has impacted our community in positive and lasting ways.”

Ellen Bowers Hofstead Chair in the Humanities

Headshot of Carmen Noel

​The Ellen Bowers Hofstead Chair was awarded to Ms. Carmen Noel, Visual Arts Department Chair. The Ellen Bowers Hofstead Chair was established by James W. Hofstead in loving memory of his wife, Ellen Bowers Hofstead.  Mrs. Hofstead was a 1934 graduate of Ward-Belmont Preparatory School and a 1935 graduate of Ward-Belmont Junior College. This recognition is awarded for a period of three years. Candidates will have demonstrated a high level of distinction in learning and teaching, have earned an advanced degree, and have made a full-time commitment to Harpeth Hall for a minimum of five years.

Mrs. Hill shared the following remarks about Ms. Noel:

Ms. Noel has “tirelessly dedicated herself to expanding opportunities in the visual arts for all Upper School students and to supporting her colleagues as a caring and visionary education.” When she arrived on campus six years ago, Ms. Noel helped to develop a rich elective curriculum that allows hundreds of students to explore their artistic passions in the studios of Patton each year. As the visual arts department chair, she “has always been open to new possibilities with a focus on enhancing the student experience. Her leadership style encourages her colleagues to lean into their talents because they feel supported by her.” Most significantly, Ms. Noel “has become a part of the fabric of our school in the very best ways and has made Harpeth Hall better, greater, and more beautiful in her time here.” Congratulations, Ms. Noel!

Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching

​The Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching was awarded to Ms. Lori McDermott, Middle and Upper School Orchestra Teacher. This recognition is awarded annually to an outstanding member of the Harpeth Hall faculty who demonstrates excellence in scholarship, an unusual ability to communicate with students, excitement about teaching and learning, a commitment to the moral and intellectual development of students,and dedication to the life of the school. The appointment is for one year, and carries with it honor, remuneration, and a Harpeth Hall chair which serves as a symbol for this award.

Mrs. Hill shared the following remarks about Ms. McDermott:

Ms. McDermott “makes teaching look effortless, joyful, and smooth. Drawing upon a vast repertoire of innovative teaching practices and experiences, her classes flow seamlessly from one activity to the next, and she has a remarkable way of providing individual instruction while also attending to the needs of the group. One need only listen to know that she is masterful in bringing out the very best in all of her students.” During her eleven years at Harpeth Hall, Ms. McDermott has dedicated herself to building the orchestral music program and it has reached new heights under her direction. We thank Ms. McDermott for “the patience, enthusiasm, and skillful teaching you offer to every student who is just beginning her path as an orchestral musician and for supporting all of your students in honing their craft and building their confidence.”


This year, one beloved faculty member is retiring after 17 years of service to our school. Head of School Jess Hill honored Nancy Turner’s tenure and presented her with a special gift representative of our gratitude.

​Ms. Nancy Turner, Performing Arts Department Chair, came to Harpeth Hall straight from working in England in the fall of 2003, and our choral programs have been on an upward trend ever since. “If Ms. Turner is asked to do something, she does it well.” Ms. Hill remarked. “She has filled our school with beautiful music and led our students to competitions in the state and region, almost always returning with a superior ranking.” When Ms. Turner took over the helm as Department Chair, she remained an advocate for all areas of performing arts, always ensuring a solid place for music, theatre, and dance within our school program. Through the years, Ms. Turner executed several expansive projects by hosting choirs from the southeast and directing performances celebrating female composers and another benefiting Llwala, as well as many other Harpeth Hall milestones. She also helped take our choir and orchestra students on the road to experience renowned music programs at Southern universities. Ms. Hill concluded by saying, “Some of my warmest and happiest Harpeth Hall memories originated in the theatre, gym, or lawn during a performance in which Ms. Turner had a hand. A beloved teacher, she set a high yet joyful bar for her students who rose to every public occasion under her leadership to share beautiful music with our community.”

This special assembly also focused on three faculty awards given to exceptional faculty members based on each award's respective criteria.

Harpeth Hall congratulates our faculty and staff on these career milestones.

10 years

Jennifer Perry, Upper School science teacher

Jerard White, Upper School world languages teacher

Rachel Van Dyke, Middle School English department chair

15 years

Alice Bryant, Middle School librarian 

Kim Himes, Middle School math teacher

Jenny Byers, Director of college counseling

Lisa Hall, Associate Director of admission

Renee Holt, Sage dining services

Donna Green, Sage dining services

Fran Maddox, Director of counseling

Susan Timmons, Upper School librarian

20 years

Gary Schott, Upper School science teacher

Bonnie Moses, Upper School social studies teacher

Elizabeth Allen, Upper School world languages teacher

Justin Dover, technology director

25 years

Martha Ross, Middle School physical education teacher

Jackie Powers, Upper School English teacher

Molly Rumsey, Director of information technology

35 years

Art Echerd, Upper School social sciences teacher