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Hark! I hear she’s Teacher of the Year

Rockstar Teacher: Mandy Scott

MSVMA Teacher of the Year Mandy Scott leads the choir at Rockford High School

Rockford — The choir space at Rockford High School is aflutter with chatter and activity until Mandy Scott dashes out a few piano chords and lifts her hands. Then the room goes silent for a beat before swelling with the sound of students’ voices: “Hark! I hear the harps eternal, ringing on the farther shore.” 

The sound almost feels too elegant for such a casual setting, but then again, why wouldn’t it? These students take pride in giving their all for a choir director whose skill, patience and compassion they hold in high regard. Scott’s peers must agree, because she has been named the Michigan School Vocal Music Association’s Teacher of the Year.

The MSVMA is composed of music educators from throughout the state who host and organize festivals, collaborate on teaching styles and uplift members in various ways. The award was announced during the annual Michigan Music Conference held in Grand Rapids in late January.

Scott has been part of MSVMA since she started teaching. She said it was an honor to be in competition with longtime peers who were also nominated, some of whom she’s worked with for decades.

“I’m just so grateful to my colleagues at MSVMA and also to my students and colleagues here at Rockford,” Scott said. “I just feel like I’m surrounded by really incredible people and I’m lucky to do what I do every day.”

‘I think I’ve grown equally, if not more so, as a person in her class than I have as a musician.’

— senior Abbey House

The Big News

Rockford High School Choir Director Mandy Scott is the MSVMA Teacher of the Year (courtesy)

Scott’s family was there, which made the moment even sweeter. Her husband, Jed Scott, directs the Rockford Aces tenor/bass a cappella group, and volunteers to support the choir program. Her three kids — Rockford students Owen, Julian and Daniella — were singing in the Honors Choir at the conference, so they were also able to be present for the reception.

Scott said she attributes the win in part to her work to expose students to new places and experiences, giving choir members as many opportunities as possible to learn and grow.

“We like to take students abroad on trips,” she said. “Last year we went to Spain, in 2018 we went to Italy and in 2014 we took the kids to the World Choir Games in Latvia. … We’re already planning Italy and Croatia for next spring break. 

“If the community’s in support and would like to keep doing it, we’re committed to doing this every year.”

She said her choirs’ performances at “top-earning events” as well as her general active presence in the organization also probably helped.

Family Dynamic

Before earning her bachelor’s degree from Western Michigan University and her Master of Music in Choral Conducting degree from the University of Miami, Scott was a Rockford Ram herself. 

Mandy Scott leads the choir in a quick verse from ‘Hark! I Hear the Harps Eternal’

She’s glad to have spent the past 16 years of her 21-year career teaching in the district where she developed her love for music education.

“I love the community,” Scott said. “When I was in choir at Rockford, it was clear to me that this was something I loved and adored.”

And her students are happy to have her. Several seniors lauded Scott’s ability to get peak performances from her classes while keeping an even temperament and treating students with empathy and kindness.

“She’s very good at finding what we need to tweak and what we need to work on,” said Lucas Poirier. “She has a very nice soul, and she’s very caring.”

Senior Micah Frost said Scott “makes you want to be there.” 

“She’s really patient,” Micah said. “If we’re not getting a part or if we’re goofing off, which happens sometimes, she’s … just really good about handling everything with kindness and compassion.

“It’s something that’s really awesome to see in a teacher, because it’s inspiring. I want to be like her, and the way she treats everyone the way she wants to be treated. It’s pretty awesome.”

Seniors Abbey House and Taylor Fox echoed that sentiment.

Mandy Scott, center, poses with students Taylor Fox and Abbey House, left, and Micah Frost and Lucas Poirier

“I think I’ve grown equally, if not more so, as a person in her class than I have as a musician. It’s inspiring and reflective of how we should be in her classroom too,” Abbey said.

“I just really like the family dynamic that we have,” said Taylor. “She sees everyone, and it doesn’t really matter if you’re really talkative or you’re really shy and you don’t talk much in class. She genuinely has such a strong connection to every one of her students and I just really admire that.”

Scott said students, parents and colleagues expressed enthusiastic support after she received the award. Her room was decorated to mark the occasion and Superintendent Steve Matthews even baked cookies.

“My students and the choir parents were all so lovely,” she said. “We had a really fun week.”

Read more from Rockford: 
District gets early start on next strategic plan
Freshmen find foosball fever

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Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley
Riley Kelley is a reporter covering Cedar Springs, Grand Rapids, East Grand Rapids and Sparta school districts. An award-winning journalist, Riley spent eight years with the Ludington Daily News, reporting, copy editing, paginating and acting as editor for its weekly entertainment section. He also contributed to LDN’s sister publications, Oceana’s Herald-Journal and the White Lake Beacon. His reporting on issues in education and government has earned accolades from the Michigan Press Association and Michigan Associated Press Media Editors. Riley’s early work in journalism included a stint as an on-air news reporter for WMOM Radio, and work on the editorial staff of various student publications. Riley is a graduate of Grand Valley State University. He originally hails from western Washington.


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