Years before she was selected as the Mississippi Department of Education’s 2019-2020 Mississippi Teacher of the Year, Hannah Gadd Ardrey was a student with a dream of attending college.
Gadd Ardrey has been teaching for five years, all at Lafayette High School and Lafayette Middle School in Oxford, Mississippi, where she sees 185 students each day, with 130 students being members of the choir program. She enjoys teaching music history, dual credit music appreciation, and choir where students consistently earn All-Superior ratings at district, state and regional competitions.
“My students are building a legacy. They are learning life skills in choir that can help students become successful citizens. Music allows students to cultivate a climate for change and make the world a better place. Being named the state teacher of the year is a huge testament of the power of music and of the hard work my students put into each day,” said Gadd Ardrey, a native of the Wren community outside of Amory, Mississippi.
Gadd Ardrey’s career might have been quite different without her University of Mississippi education — training supported by a surprise scholarship she received.
“I wanted to go to Ole Miss like the rest of my family, but the money wasn’t there, so I decided to attend a small, private college instead of going with the family tradition of attending Ole Miss. I had already come to terms with the fact that I was going to have student loans to pay off after college. It was scary, but I had no other choice,” she said. “Then I received a scholarship letter in the mail from Ole Miss saying that my college education was paid in full. I was shocked. I was excited. I was going to be an Ole Miss Rebel!”
Gadd Ardrey began her freshman year as a biology major but soon decided to follow her passion – teaching, helping others, and music.
“I’ve always loved music,” she said, adding that her mother also taught music. “Growing up, I would have friends over and we would play school. I would always be the teacher. I even asked for a white board and dry erase markers for Christmas one year. At my core, I knew that I was meant to be a teacher. Music had always provided me wonderful opportunities and gave me the outlet that I needed growing up. I changed my major to music education and never looked back – best decision ever!”
In 2013, Gadd Ardrey received a Bachelor of Music degree with an emphasis in vocal music education and, in 2015, she completed a Master of Music degree with an emphasis in choral conducting thanks to an assistantship through the Ole Miss Choral Music department.
Before being named Mississippi Teacher of the Year in March of 2019, Gadd Ardrey received several awards honoring her dedication to education on the local level. In November, Gadd Ardrey was named the LHS Teacher of the Year. In January 2019, she was named the Lafayette County School District Teacher of the Year, and she was the Congressional District I Teacher of the Year Finalist in February of 2019.
“For me, the honor of being named Mississippi Teacher of the Year belongs to all music teachers in the state, to the LHS teachers and to all the students who have been influenced by the power of music,” Gadd Ardrey said. “I see how music can help teachers motivate, understand and sculpt independent citizens in and out of the classroom. I’ve seen firsthand how the fine arts positively impact the lives of students, and it’s such a privilege to be able to use this recognition to promote the importance of fine arts education in schools.”
“Music and the arts can have a tremendous impact on the academic achievements of students across all disciplines,” said David Rock, dean of the School of Education.
“We are so proud of Hannah’s fantastic accomplishment. She is a testament of a passionate and dedicated teacher who truly cares about the success of each and every student,” he said. “We are proud that another extraordinary educator from the University of Mississippi was recognized for her continued excellence in educating young students.”
For more information on how to support or create a scholarship at UM, contact Denson Hollis, executive director of development, at firstname.lastname@example.org or 662-915-5092 or online at https://give.olemiss.edu.
By Mary Stanton Knight