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Music education alumna receives 2008 Pennsylvania-Delaware String Teachers Association Outstanding New String/Orchestra Teacher Award

Johanna Hartman

In Johanna Hartman’s first year of teaching music at Elizabethtown Area High School, she was awarded the 2008 Pennsylvania-Delaware String Teachers Association Outstanding New String/Orchestra Teacher Award for the quiet way she motivates students to reach their potential.  We took this opportunity to ask Johanna, who graduated from Messiah College in 2007, a few questions about her calling as a music teacher, and the way a Messiah College education helped guide her vocational development. 

Please describe the way you work to motivate your students.

Learning to motivate and inspire students has been the primary goal as a first year teacher at Elizabethtown High School, and one of the reasons for which I desired to enter the education field. On the one hand, this desire was a bit intimidating, particularly because of the limited age difference between myself and the students, but throughout the year, I came to realize that I have the very unique ability to relate with the attitudes and mindsets of my students having been in their shoes not too long ago. Whether teaching theory or composition or directing the orchestra, the greatest motivational tool I had was demonstrating a passionate interest in the subject material. I believe that type of enthusiasm is infectious and influential, and it turned out to be a great tool to use during the year. Along with demonstrating an enthusiasm for music, I found that the students were motivated when there were contemporary contexts for which the subject material related. When the world of a student is expanded to include larger concepts and ideas, the mind is humbled by this awareness and inspired to explore the unknown.

What's the best part about your job?

The students. As any teacher knows, the first year is the most overwhelming and intimidating, yet when I reflect on the year, the feelings of insecurity and uncertainty quickly fade in light of the faces of my students. Not only do I get to talk about a subject I love, but I am able to share the joy of music-making with them. In a generation when students' abilities are being identified by test scores, teachers of the arts are in a position where we can inspire the heart, soul and mind. Sharing this exploration with the students is what excites me every day as I come to school.

How would you describe your first year on the job, overall?

My first year of teaching has been deeply fulfilling. Yes, it has also been overwhelming and at times stressful, but when you get to work with such dedicated students and supportive colleagues, teaching about a subject you love, there is nothing quite as exciting. Upon entering this position, I was quite intimidated and uncertain about how I could ever be successful as a music teacher or directing a high school orchestra, but I have been humbled to realize that God, in his intimate understanding of each of us, knows the true desires of our hearts and the abilities he has blessed us with that in his timing he fulfills us beyond our greatest desires. I look forward, with great anticipation, the many years of teaching to come.

What about your education at Messiah was most helpful to you as a first year teacher?

I believe the aspect of my education at Messiah that was more helpful or shall I say influential was the very thing that inspires my teaching now: the generous, passionate, and supportive professors and staff at the College. This is one of the main reasons I came to Messiah. Yes, prestigious names and accolades can be helpful on a resume and in procuring jobs, but when you interact and observe professors that exhibit the very quality and depth of teaching and character you desire to emulate yourself, nothing tangible can compare. Having entered the "real" world, the relationships and encouragement from my professors is still what pervades the choices I make as a teaching, as well at the very character of the person I desire to be like. When I reflect on my perspective of teaching during college and even up until my first day of school, I cannot help but smile at my inability to look beyond the mere tasks of the job. As a college student, I was taught so much about curriculum and building up a good music program and when I was interviewed I was asked about teaching philosophy and classroom management, and yet all of those studies were only a preparation for what teaching was all about: the students, developing the mind, heart, and character.

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