Every spring, Harpeth Hall recognizes its outstanding faculty for their commitment and dedication to the school. On Friday, April 24, despite being unable to gather physically in the Frances Bond Davis Theatre, more than 700 students and faculty members logged in to Harpeth Hall's first-ever Zoom assembly to celebrate and honor their teachers and colleagues. This year's unique assembly began with a warm welcome from Head of School, Jess Hill.
"This gathering is a celebration of all of our teachers and all of you," Ms. Hill told students. "It is also a reflection of our community and our values. You represent our school, all of our faculty and staff, at its very best. Your dedication has never been more evident than in these weeks of distance learning and growth."
Senior Stefanie Chiguluri shared a special reflection on her gratitude for her eight years at Harpeth Hall. She praised the work of faculty and staff who "teach us to pursue not only what we love in the classroom, but on the field or canvas. They see us in our element, and they make sure we reach our highest potential in that element."
Stefanie concluded her emotional tribute with the following message. "Sadly, right now we are all apart, but the faculty persists. They do not give up...I am sure now, more than ever, we have come to appreciate all that the faculty have done for us. To the handful of teachers who do not plan on returning next year and this is your goodbye, imagine us clapping for you, cheering for you, and crying for you because the time you have spent here has impacted each student immensely."
Harpeth Hall congratulates the following faculty and staff on these career milestones.
To recognize the five faculty members who are retiring this year, Ms. Hill and students paid tribute to their years of dedicated service to Harpeth Hall.
"Girls," Ms. Hill began, "I want you to know that thinking about Harpeth Hall without these teachers is really hard for me and for many of us, but we are so grateful for their incredibly full careers that they have given to Harpeth Hall. These men and women have given cumulatively 159 years of service to our school."
Ms. Scottie Girgus, Upper School English Teacher, is a lifelong educator who has changed so many lives for the better. Now in her 30th year of teaching at Harpeth Hall, Ms. Girgus has taught in both the Middle and Upper School, has served as Department Chair, and has been instrumental in developing the Upper School English Curriculum. Ms. Girgus "believes deeply that literary works should serve as mirrors and windows to our students. Her students feel seen, known, and heard." Ms. Hill remarked, "And her magic extends far beyond the classroom, where she weaves her wisdom into each of her clubs. Act Now, Knitting Club, and the Jane Austen Club are legendary." Ms. Girgus was awarded the Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching in 1996 as well as the Tennessee Association for Independent School's Hubert Smothers Excellence in Teaching Award in 2018. Ms. Hill concluded, "Ms. Girgus is a master teacher and is no doubt leaving the school greater, better, and more beautiful."
Ms. Leslie Matthews, Upper School Wellness Teacher, has been a pioneer in her career in many ways. Ms. Matthews was one of the first dance majors at the University of Tennessee and joined Harpeth Hall under Idanelle McMurry to launch the school's Dance Program. Ms. Matthews said that she always loved teaching dance in a high academic environment because we had so many interesting and engaged students and she loved working with each and every one. She was the artistic director of the Dance Program until 1999 and stepped down from directing in 2001. Ms. Matthews was awarded the Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching in 2001. She continued to teach dance until 2009, when she became certified in yoga. Under Ms. Matthews, yoga became another signature program at Harpeth Hall, providing a sense of balance to our student's increasingly busy lives. "For over four decades, Ms. Matthews has graced Harpeth Hall with her creativity, artistic expression, and dedication to making us a better school. Thank you, Ms. Matthews for always seeing the beauty within each of us." Ms. Hill concluded.
Ms. Anne Riegle, Middle School English and Reading Teacher, has inspired her fifth grade students to see themselves as writers and to connect on a personal level with literature, in her 15 years at Harpeth Hall. Ms. Hill remarked that, "Ms. Riegle has supported our youngest Honeybears by building the confidence needed to thrive and excel throughout their Harpeth Hall career and beyond. Ms. Riegle is the teacher no student can ever forget because she sees the best in them and they know it." Ms. Riegle served as a mentor to others in her department and grade level team. She has been involved in all aspects of the school, serving on the SEEK committee, fifth grade team leader, and coach of several Middle School Green Teams. Ms. Riegle was awarded the Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching in 2014. Ms. Hill concluded, "We will miss her tireless work ethic and her undeniable passion for learning as well...Thank you Ms. Riegle for all you have done to make our program stronger.
Mr. Tony Springman, Upper School Social Sciences Teacher, came to Harpeth Hall in 1987 and for the last three decades has helped to build the school we love today. Mr. Springman was the first softball coach at Harpeth Hall and served as the Varsity Basketball Coach for 11 years. Mr. Springman helped to develop the History Department's most popular Social Sciences electives, including Psychology and Contemporary Issues. He was one of the first recipients of the Ellen Bowers Hofstead Chair in the Humanities and served as department chair for a decade. "Most importantly," Ms. Hill commented, "he is beloved by his students for his masterful classroom style. Contemporary Issues has become a legendary class where students learn to think critically and use their voices. From day one, they are assured that their opinions matter and they learn to support these opinions with data and research." In his retirement, Mr. Springman will continue with CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocate), where he currently helps children in the criminal justice system.
Mr. Paul-Leon Tuzeneu, Upper School World Languages Teacher, has lifted up the mind and spirit of hundreds of students who have had the privilege to be in his classroom over his 38 years of teaching at Harpeth Hall. "He is known for his kindest and humility, and of course, for his well-timed zany sense of humor." Ms. Hill remarked. Mr. Tuzeneu's gift of language is extraordinary. He speaks not only Spanish and French, but can also converse in German and Italian as well. Mr. Tuzeneu was awarded the Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching in 2005. Over the last four decades, he has led over 14 trips to France, Spain, and Germany and created the revered Winterim course, Tool Time. "Over the years, students and parents alike have commented that Mr. Tuzeneu was exactly the teacher that their daughter needed at that time in their lives." Ms. Hill concluded.
This special assembly also focused on two 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 Mr. MarQuis Chappell, Upper School English 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 Mr. Chappell's time at Harpeth Hall. "This year's Heath Jones Award recipient is truly in his own category. The year we hired him, he had several job offers from other schools, but he chose us. In his words, it was because he believed so deeply in Harpeth Hall's mission...Once hired, he immediately went above and beyond. His personal and professional standards of excellence have set a new bar. He is beloved by his students, especially for his tradition of greeting each student at the doorway of his classroom." Mr. Chappell's students feel seen, known, cared for, and inspired to reach new heights in his classroom. His classroom teaching is engaging, dynamic, and always multilayered. "This month," Ms. Hill continued, "marks a very special time for celebrating him for he passed his comprehensive exams at Belmont University to earn his Masters in English. Our sincerest congratulations to you, MarQuis Chappell, for not only earning your Masters, but also our Heath Jones Award!"
Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching
The Lulu Hampton Owen Chair for Excellence in Teaching was awarded to Ms. Amy Mulron, Middle School Mathematics Department Chair. 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. Mulron:
Ms. Mulron's passion for teaching math "is immediately evident when you step into her classroom. She believes in her students and they excel in her class because of the confidence she instills. She finds it especially gratifying to support students when they encounter difficulties in math, knowing those moments of struggle present the greatest opportunities for confidence building and growth. Her students know that she cares for them and they consistently comment on how much they appreciate her reliable support, kindness, and passion for learning. As a colleague, Ms. Mulron is respected for her ardent pursuit of new pathways for students to access and make meaning of mathematics. During her 8 years at Harpeth Hall, she has taught every grade in the Middle School and she has served the school in many different ways, including teacher, Department Chair, and Grade Team Leader. Highly regarded by many for her clear thinking and thoughtful listening skills, Ms. Mulron has dedicated herself to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion initiatives and works tirelessly to ensure her students feel seen and heard. She builds her students up and is fiercely dedicated to creating a safe learning environment for all of her students. Among her greatest assets is her deep well of knowledge for mathematics teaching and her commitment to professional and lifelong learning. She reaches to experts in the field and connects with math teachers across the city to collaborate and learn from them. She models in every way what it means to be a lifelong learner."
The final portion of the assembly featured messages of gratitude from students of all ages. We hope you will watch this wonderful tribute!