PHOTOS: ELIYAHU GURFINKEL,THE ANN ARBOR NEWS
Carroll Hart, a vocal-music teacher at Eberwhite Elementary School in Ann Arbor, pretends to faint from delight after the class sang a series of notes correctly on Wednesday afternoon.
44 years of connecting with young students
Most-senior Ann Arbor school teacher retires
Hart teaches a class on Wednesday afternoon.
BY DAVID JESSE
The Ann Arbor News
As his friends and colleagues retired from their teaching positions, Carroll Hart often asked them the same question - how do you know when it’s time to go?
“They always said, ‘You’ll just know,”’ Hart said. “This (school) year, in October, I just knew.”
So in January, he drafted his resignation letter and sent it in, ending a 44-year career in the Ann Arbor school district.
Late next week, he’ll walk out of Eberwhite Elementary School for the last time.
The school will miss him, say parents, teachers and administrators.
“My fourth-grader said the other day, ‘Why couldn’t he stay one more year?,”’ said Parent-Teacher Organization president Trixie Pachmohr. “My younger child said, ‘I don’t like music, but I like Mr. Hart.’ He does a great job teaching. My son is just so far advanced in music.”
The PTO has purchased an outdoor glass imbarimba, a musical instrument, and installed it at the school in Hart’s honor.
His teaching career began in 1964 when Hart was hired by the district after going back to school for a second bachelor’s degree - this one in teaching.
In the years since, Hart has taught vocal and instrumental music at Lawton Elementary School, Forsythe Middle School, Scarlett Middle School and at Eberwhite for the last 19 years.
Those 44 years of service make Hart the most senior member of Ann Arbor’s teaching staff.
“He has a great ability to connect with kids,” said Linda Carter, the current president of the teachers’ union and a music teacher who has taught with Hart. “He knows how to build into those kids. I would watch him and learn from how he interacted with kids.”
That interaction was evident in Hart’s classroom on a recent day when a fourth-grade class trooped in.
After the students took their seats, Hart dashed around the exterior of the room, slapping hands with them.
As the students began singing scales, Hart directed them with little hand gestures, modulating each note up and down a bit. Perched on the edge of their chairs, the students were keyed in, carefully watching each gesture.
Hart spent a lot of time teaching music theory to his elementary students.
“I think we dreadfully underestimate the ability of kids to learn,” he said. “I push them a lot.”
Having the chance to teach is also why he likes elementary school.
“I like to see kids come in as kindergartners with blank slates and being able to see them grow,” he said.
The students haven’t changed much in the last 44 years, Hart said, but life as a teacher has.
When he started, there was no teachers’ union, teacher meetings were often conducted in a haze of cigarette smoke and all the students went home for lunch while teachers played bridge.
Hart is also retiring this month from a long career spent conducting area church choirs, including the last 15 at Westminster Presbyterian Church in Ann Arbor.
His retirement plans? To enjoy music again.
“Because I’m so immersed in it, it’s hard to enjoy it,” he said. “I’ve always loved music, but it was hard for me to always like it. I’m excited to get back to music just for enjoyment.”
David Jesse can be reached at djesse@ annarbornews.com or at 734-994-6937. Join the discussion at blog.mlive.com/ study_hall.
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