Harpeth Hall teachers 'go to extraordinary lengths to create the place we know and love'
The core purpose of Harpeth Hall’s faculty states that a teacher’s role is to “nurture a sense of wonder, to instill a will and facility for learning, and to promote cultural understanding, environmental stewardship, and service to others.”
At Harpeth Hall, the halls are full of wonder. The love and respect the students have for their faculty and staff radiates through campus, and the lessons they learn live in them well beyond their days as students.
As one senior reflected, “Harpeth Hall teachers ... come to school every day to support us in our learning and help us become independent, curious, and aware citizens. The teachers care so much at Harpeth Hall, and they make Harpeth Hall such a special place.”
Thursday afternoon, Harpeth Hall students filled the Frances Bond Davis Theatre with energy for the school’s beloved annual Faculty and Staff Appreciation Assembly. During what is known as the students' favorite assembly, faculty members were honored with words that captured and reflected the impact each educator has had on Harpeth Hall.
“I’ve always thought that calling teachers heroes oversimplifies things. It’s a mundane, overused comparison that erases achievements rather than honors them,” said Olivia Majors '23, who was chosen by her class to represent the students during this week's special assembly. “But the truth is, our teachers are ordinary people who go to extraordinary lengths to create the place we know and love.”
Harpeth Hall is fortunate to have a dedicated 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, Head of School Jess Hill recognized two faculty members with the school's highest awards for teaching.
Upper school social studies teacher Nick Oschman received the Heath Jones Prize for the Promise of Excellence in Teaching, and upper school English teacher Kristen Meltesen was honored with the Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching.
“Whenever we ask a student what makes Harpeth Hall special, she says it is the teachers,” Ms. Hill. “And girls, do you know what is funny, whenever we ask the faculty what makes Harpeth Hall special, they say, without hesitation — the students. Those two sentiments are what make this place a great place to be.”
Director of the Upper School Frances Fondren-Bales and Director of the Middle School Judi O'Brien joined in honoring faculty and staff members who have been at Harpeth Hall for 10, 15, 20, and 25 years. Ms. Hill also recognized business office administrator Janet Baxter and upper school dean Pamela Carver, who are retiring this school year. With each name called, the theatre erupted into applause, cheers, and standing ovations.
“Teachers, your knowledge, excellence, and achievement in your respective fields will never fail to fill me with awe and humility. But what I appreciate most is not your simple transferal of information, but your encouragement in the pursuit of knowledge,” concluded Olivia.
“I’m standing before you all, speaking on behalf of 730 people with different personalities, strengths, and weaknesses. And you have managed to meet each one of us exactly where we are. Your participation in our development reaches far beyond any one classroom. It stretches out to the far corners of our campus as you sit in the bleachers cheering us on or in the audience of this auditorium. And it reaches beyond campus, in ways I know we all will continue to discover as we move on from our place beloved and into the ‘real world,’ which doesn’t look so scary with you all as our examples. Thank you.”
Heath Jones Prize for the Promise of Excellence in Teaching
Nick Oschman received the Heath Jones Prize for the Promise of Excellence in Teaching. This prize is dedicated to A. Heath Jones, a teacher and academic dean at Harpeth Hall from 1984 to 1996. Harpeth Hall awards this prize annually 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.
“This year’s Heath Jones Award recipient probably never thought he would be teaching high school girls, but he definitely has what it takes to be highly successful in an all-girls setting,” Head of School Jess Hill said. “He is an expert in his subject area - check. He respects the potential of each student - check. He makes a commitment to connect with each student in his class, and he has a gift for discerning an individual student's needs in the classroom.” Mr. Oschman sets out to inspire his students rather than intimidate them, all while holding academic expectations high. In his classroom, he makes history come to life while stretching his students’ intellectual framework. “It is no surprise that he is beloved by his students,” said Ms. Hill. “His respect for each student can be summed up by this sentence: Never underestimate a student’s ability to grow.”
Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching
Kristen Meltesen received the Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching 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.
Ms. Meltesen “is masterful at setting and maintaining high expectations for her students and helping them meet the challenge,” Ms. Hill said. “Inevitably, each student leaves her class feeling proud of what they have been able to achieve in their writing and study of literature.” Ms. Meltesen serves her students’ needs while encouraging success and growth in her classroom. She is a true team player and has remained devoted to Harpeth Hall and her students since she began teaching here in 1999. To Ms. Meltesen, Ms. Hill said, “thank you for looking out for your students, your colleagues, and the mission and culture of this school.”
This year, two staff members are retiring after decades of service to our school. Head of School Jess Hill honored the following staff member’s tenure and presented them with a special gift representative of our gratitude.
Janet Baxter, payroll and benefits administrator, came to Harpeth Hall 23 years ago and has made a lasting impact on the behind-the-scenes workings of the school. As one of her colleagues says, “Janet Baxter will do anything for anybody.” Loyal, dependable, and caring, Ms. Baxter puts the needs of Harpeth Hall employees first, making sure everyone is taken care of while making improvements to protocols and procedures to help the business side of the school run smoothly. “She is devoted to doing what is right for this community and each person in it. A protector of the rules while also looking through a truly personal lens,” Ms. Hill said. Her presence on campus will be greatly missed!
Pamela Carver has served as a middle school English teacher, English department chair, leader of the SEEK program, and as an upper school dean of students during her 16-year tenure at Harpeth Hall. “Her smile and ready laugh are her calling cards,” said Ms. Hill. “But in whatever role she has held, her greatest gift is that she always sees the very best in everyone.” As a dean of students, Mrs. Carver approached her position with consistency, kindness, and fairness. When she jumped into the role at the beginning of COVID-19, worked to uphold the full student life and culture of our school community. “Thank you, Mrs. Carver, for bringing your vision to Harpeth Hall,” Ms. Hill addressed her. “You have truly made us greater, better, and more beautiful.”
Harpeth Hall congratulates our faculty and staff on these career milestones.
Jan Augusty, Business office assistant
Buffy Baker, Upper school wellness teacher and coach
Rachel Jones, Physical education and wellness teacher
Diana LeMense, Physical education and wellness teacher
Amy Evans, Senior associate director of college counseling
Jenny Jervis, Upper school French teacher
Jingli Jurca, Upper school Chinese teacher
Cathy Richarde, Middle school social studies teacher
Jacquie Watlington, Winterim & international exchange program director
Robert Womack, Upper school art history teacher
Scottie Coombs, Director of alumnae relations
Joan Curry, Visual arts teacher
Lisa Keen, Upper school science teacher
Denise Croker, Upper school English teacher