Sycamore High School music teacher Maggie Mason recently received recognition for serving Cheatham County Schools for 25 years of dedication to encouraging, challenging and inspiring students to discover, strengthen and share the powerful potential that comes when a unique voice is fully engaged.
“I graduated from Lipscomb University with a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music and a second endorsement in secondary English,” Mason said. “I began my teaching career at Portland Middle School, but I didn’t get my first job until October of the school year. It was rough and not at all what I had envisioned teaching to be.”
Mason said she was teaching sixth, seventh, and eighth grade general music, as well as seventh and eighth grade reading.
“The principal asked if I could start a choir since they didn’t have one — no matter that I went to college to be a band director, they already had one of those,” she said. “Luckily, I had been in choir from sixth to 12th grades and grew up singing in church. I could also play the piano; so, of course, I started the choir.
“I taught at Portland Middle for two years and when a job came open in Cheatham County, where I grew up, I interviewed with Dr. Alvin Rose, my high school principal, and got the music job at Sycamore Middle. I taught general music and choir to sixth, seventh and eighth grades for two years.”
When the new Sycamore High School was built, she moved to the new school and has been there ever since.
“At SHS, I have taught choir, general music, intro to fine arts, dual enrollment music appreciation, creative writing and English,” she said. “However, I have never taught band. SHS started out in 1996 with only two grades, seventh and eighth. The next year, the grades were eighth and ninth. I had that first set of students for six years. Since I had only ever taught choir, I had to go back to college to get my master’s degree in vocal music so I could keep teaching it on the high school level. That was hard because I didn’t really have the formal background in choral studies that the other graduate students had. I didn’t do too badly though; I graduated summa cum laude from Austin Peay with a master’s degree in music education with an emphasis in choral music.”
Mason cited the use of technology as having the greatest impact on change for educators and students.
“When I began at Portland Middle, there was no copier, no computers, and definitely no cell phones,” she said. “The school had a mimeograph machine for teachers to make copies. Technology has helped in so many ways, but the addiction to cell phones has negatively impacted how students interact with others. Many of them don’t use a cell phone as a tool to help, but as a way to hide from one on one interaction. They just don’t know, in a lot of cases, how to handle themselves emotionally face to face.”
Yet in spite of the many changes and challenges she has worked through, Mason said she still enjoys being in the classroom.
“Since I began school in the first grade, I wanted to be a teacher,” she said. “My first and second grade teacher was Ms. Ronalda Harper. I loved her. I remember how much fun I had in her class and how much she seemed to love us. I still have a Little Golden Book of ‘Twas the Night before Christmas’ that she must have given all of us. It’s signed with her beautiful signature. She’s the main reason I’m a teacher now. I loved school and would make my younger sisters play school all the time and modeled my ‘classroom’ after the things Ms. Harper would do with us.”
As for teachers as mentors, Mason admits to having a classroom full.
“There was Mrs. Carolyn Majors, fourth grade; Mrs. Susan Ramsey, the one music teacher I had in elementary school for one year; Mrs. Claudette Williams, seventh grade English; Mr. Mickey Dyce, choir from sixth grade on; Mr. Dennis Barnes, band from sixth grade on; Ms. Laura Mallernee, high school advanced English — I was definitely afraid to speak in her class because she took points off your grade if you spoke incorrectly; Mr. Wayne Darrow, high school history who also taught all of my siblings. There was Mrs. Brenda Boyte, my senior English teacher who never judged me for choosing choir over advanced senior English, Cassandra Lee, my college clarinet instructor who was also a member of the Nashville Symphony and who told me to pass along the gift of music, and the seventh grade teacher at Portland Middle, who pulled me aside one day — a scared and unsure newbie and told me that I was doing a great job.”
Harpeth Middle School music and choral teacher Lindsay Nixon Greece has known Mason for many years.
“Maggie is a true professional,” Greece said. “She’s a beautiful vocalist, and she gets amazing results from her students. Her kindness and passion shine through in every aspect of her teaching. She’s just a great human being.”
Mason is grateful for the many bonds that she shares with fellow educators and all those who seek to learn and teach.
“I firmly believe teaching is a gift from God, given not to hide because of uncertainty or fear, but to share with joy and love.”