Monday, Oct 23, 2017

Harvard High School has new music teacher

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Haley Gifford is the new music teacher at Harvard High School. HML photo by Grace Schulz

The music department at Harvard High School has a new leader, and hopefully this one is a keeper. Haley Gifford is the new music teacher at the high school, replacing Kim Stromberg who followed her fiance to Georgia.

Gifford graduated from Millikin University, Decatur, in 2012 with a degree in music education. After college, she worked as a nanny for a year and a half. She grew up in Decatur and has been a part of choir since junior high school. She has played the clarinet since fifth grade, and she took piano and organ lessons in college.

Gifford said she feels there is a real sense of community at the school and is impressed with the staff and the students.

“The staff has been so supportive and understanding,” Gifford said. “They have really helped me and guided me. … The students have been wonderful. They are really good kids. They are really attentive, and I can see that they just have a desire to learn.”

Gifford said her objective is to show students the power of music.

“I just want to encourage kids to follow music in one outlet or another and [teach them] how it can be a creative outlet for them and how different pieces of music can really be a powerful thing,” she said.

Gifford, who said her favorite musical is “Wicked” and favorite kind of music is jazz and a cappella, said her music philosophy is simple.

“Music is for everyone, and every student has the opportunity to express him/herself in one way or another through music,” she said. “It can be a huge outlet for them. It can make them realize how beneficial music is and essential it is for everyone. Music is involved in our lives in one way or another, and, by singing these different pieces and finding what is powerful about each of them, I think students will realize that even though these pieces all sound different, they can relate to them in one way or another.”

Harvard High School Principal Rob Zielinski has visited Canfield’s class a couple of times since the beginning of the school year and said he came away impressed with what he has seen from the young teacher.

“She’s very calm with the kids,” Zielinski said. “She’s already set some expectations for them. I’m very impressed with her knowledge of her content and her ability to keep the kids engaged.”

The annual fall musical has been moved to the spring. This year the production will be “The Wizard of Oz.”