Every spring, Harpeth Hall celebrates and recognizes its outstanding faculty for their commitment and dedication to the school. This year's special assembly began with a warm welcome from Head of School, Mrs. Hill, and transitioned to a lively and animated speech by senior Kate Pittman who began, "I believe in the power of teachers."
She praised every department and group on campus for being "the people who constantly strive to make this school be better." Pittman continued, "I know of no other school whose classrooms pulse with such vivacious energy from both its students and its teacher as this one does. The walls of the English hall are plastered floor to ceiling with colorful posters and encouraging words. Science labs are bursting with life, and the math wing buzzes with wonder. History discussions carry into the next class or break, because they contain material that genuinely interests the students. Language lectures push us not to memorize, but to understand. Our Performing Arts department evokes our deepest emotions. Wellness coaches make us stronger both physically and mentally, and we have a Fine Arts building that never ceases to amaze. These classrooms, filled with energetic, life-long learners ready to instill their knowledge of the world to the next generation, are what I think I will miss most next year."
While warmly giving thanks to all the people at Harpeth Hall who have contributed to her and her classmate's school experience, she singled out one teacher in particular that she wanted to recognize, Dr. Jack. Dr. Jack Henderson will retire at the end of this school year after 22 years teaching at Harpeth Hall.
"If any educator has ever shown to me the power teachers possess, it is Dr. Jack. Seeing that his impact far surpasses the four walls of my class, I turned to his students and colleagues to assist me in writing a toast, to the man who, to so many, means the absolute most.
"And yes, it rhymes...anything less than over-the-top for this man would simply be a crime."
She shared a touching and hilarious toast that painted a picture of what it is like to know and be taught by Dr. Jack. It concluded with the following verse:
"The light you've left here will never diminish,
because we carry with us the lesson you taught us:
How to never give up,
and we are more than our flaws.
It is my belief you deserve now a roaring applause."
The auditorium erupted in applause and cheers.
Praise for faculty and staff continued with remarks from Board of Trustees Chair, Jane Berry Jacques '72. She began by stating Harpeth Hall's Core Purpose statement:
Our Core Purpose is to nurture a sense of wonder, to cultivate a will and facility for learning, and to promote cultural understanding, environmental stewardship, and service to others. The pursuit of these goals will inspire students and faculty to combine knowledge with goodness and reflection with action.
"This is done every day at Harpeth Hall," Jacques said, "not only by the faculty and staff being honored today; but also by every teacher, staff member and administrator on this campus. I thank each and every one of you for what you mean to this school. The love of learning instilled here today is quite magical."
She concluded her remarks, "On behalf of the Board of Trustees, I congratulate and salute all of you for making Harpeth Hall the school that it is today. Thank you!!"
Director of the Middle School Judi O'Brien and Director of the Upper School Armistead Lemon recognized faculty and staff "who have made long term commitments to Harpeth Hall, and who have provided continuity, strength and wisdom."
Nicola Bullard, Assistant to the Head of School
Bekah Hassell, Middle School Science Teacher
Meggie Lucas, Department Chair, Middle School Social Science
Jacquie Watlington, Winterim and International Exchange Program Director
Julie Zhu, Middle School Chinese Teacher
Tracy Campbell, Director of Annual Giving
Jennifer Adams, Director of Community Support and Inclusion
Polly Linden, Department Chair, Upper School Math
To formally recognize Dr. Jack Henderson's retirement and to thank him for his service to Harpeth Hall, Mrs. Hill asked him to come to the stage.
"For 22 years, Dr. Jack Henderson has served as a beloved Upper School History teacher, extraordinary coach, trusted mentor and colleague. Known for his dynamic teaching and creative wit, Dr. Jack brings history to life for his students while making time to connect with each of them on a personal level. Hundreds of Harpeth Hall students will fondly remember his vibrant storytelling, his signature vocabulary words, his map quizzes, and his unforgettable Winterim class on the Kennedys. More importantly, they will remember a teacher who believed in them, who saw their strengths, appreciated their quirks, and who helped them find a love for history.
"Vibrant and full of energy, Dr. Jack will continue to pursue his passions, including writing novels and spending time with his grandchildren. It is hard to imagine our Upper School hallways without Dr. Jack's Tigger-like quick hops, sharp wit, and big smile. We will miss him tremendously, but most of all, we are thankful for the privilege of knowing, working with, and learning from him."
The final portion of the assembly focused on three faculty awards given to exceptional faculty members based on each award's respective criteria.
Heath Jones Prize for the Promise of Excellence in Teaching
The Heath Jones Prize for the Promise of Excellence in Teaching was awarded to Mrs. Amy Emerson, 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 Mrs. Emerson's time at Harpeth Hall. "This year's Heath Jones Award recipient is well on her way to becoming a master teacher. In her two years of teaching at Harpeth Hall, she has demonstrated an admirable commitment to her students and our school program. Her approach to teaching seamlessly balances her penchant for innovation and creative thinking with her inclination to get things done; most importantly, her students trust her because they know she always has their best interest on her mind and her heart. Most striking is her authenticity with students and the connection she establishes with every girl in her charge. Students know that anything they say or suggest in class will be heard and appreciated.
"A lifelong learner herself, this teacher had a vision for building community through our school garden and went to work. She installed hydroponic garden units in her classroom and created space for students to observe and ask questions about the process. She went back to school and earned her official certification as a Master Gardener, and she continues to roll up her sleeves and work tirelessly in the garden. She seems impervious to any obstacle, including scorching hot summer days, when it comes to moving the vision for our school garden forward.
"She is a trusted colleague and valued for her ability to work well with everyone. Her steady strength and fabulous sense of humor make her the teacher we all want on our team! We are so fortunate to have her sharp intellect and generous spirit in the Middle School.
"Please join me in congratulating Mrs. Amy Emerson."
Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching
The Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching was awarded to Bonnie Moses, Upper School Social Science 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 Mrs. Moses:
"This year's recipient of this award has met and exceeded every aspect of the above criteria. Her dedication to the life of the school -- its faculty and students -- has shaped our school for the better over the last 18 years. Indeed, she was an instrumental player in Harpeth Hall's Good to Great initiative in 2005 and led the faculty to create their core purpose statement, which today still affirms the importance of teachers nurturing a sense of wonder and instilling a will and facility for learning in their students. Above all it beautifully articulates the heart of a teacher and why we are called to do what we do each day.
"Over the last five years, she has helped students begin their Women in Government club initiative and most recently is developing engaged citizens by instructing her students and club members in the art of difficult dialogues so that all voices feel welcome in discussion. As if she is not busy enough, she volunteered to introduce AP Government into the Upper School curriculum, and has successfully made it a popular and relevant elective.
"In so many ways, she embodies the very best characteristics for a teacher. She not only has a passion for her subject, bringing it alive today, she also has a love and respect for each of her students in each class each year. Being the mother of two Harpeth Hall graduates has given her a special devotion and connection to all girls this age, and she truly meets each of her students where they are. Her brilliance in the classroom shines in the way she opens doors for each girl and never excludes or overlooks anyone.
"It is my honor and pleasure to award the Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching to Mrs. Bonnie Moses."
Ellen Bowers Hofstead Chair in the Humanities
The Ellen Bowers Hofstead Chair was awarded to Lisa Keen, Upper School Science Department Chair. This award 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. The Chair 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 Mrs. Keen:
"It is an honor to speak today about this year's Hofstead recipient. Over the last 16 years, she has inspired her students in their pursuit of STEM education in the Upper School.
"Known for her masterful and dynamic lectures and her engaging classroom presence, she models every day what it is to be a strong female STEM leader. Her detailed preparation for each class is a work of art. She carefully plans each minute, each hands-on activity and each lab, down to the tiniest detail. Then she peppers her presentations with wonderful anecdotes and distills the most complicated of concepts down to layman's terms, providing a welcome into the world of biological sciences, assuring each student that she too can absorb photosynthesis and cellular respiration in a snap.
"As department chair, she has ably led her department onward and upward, always keeping our expanding curriculum and best practices in mind while encouraging and inspiring both new and experienced faculty. She has been a leader in the expansion of our science course offerings, including the addition of AP Physics courses, a STEM Engineering course, Anatomy and Physiology, and our own innovative STEM Honors Research course. For many years she also served as our Science Olympiad club sponsor. A devoted colleague, mentor, and teacher, her commitment to excellence in all aspects of her work is unwavering.
"Would you please join me in congratulating, this year's Ellen Bowers Hoftstead Chair in Mathematics and Science, Mrs. Lisa Keen. "
Closing the assembly, Mrs. Hill thanked the faculty and staff once again for their dedication to the school and students and faculty sang the alma mater.
Title Photo: Faculty Award winners (L to R) Bonnie Moses, Lisa Keen, Amy Emerson