Congratulations to Hillary Harder
, who received Elkhart Community Schools’ Elementary Teacher of the Year Award
. Ms. Harder is a Music Teacher at Roosevelt Steam Academy.
Ms. Harder grew up in Wichita, Kansas and moved to Indiana to attend Goshen College. After spending a year in Los Angeles completing her Master’s degree, she returned to Elkhart County to teach at Roosevelt.
Growing up, Ms. Harder attended a dual language school where she was a part of a Spanish language immersion program. This background in Spanish inspired her to continue studying the language and choose Spanish as one of her majors in college. Study-abroad opportunities led her to Paraguay, Nicaragua, Spain, and the United Kingdom. Her background in Spanish helps her connect with Spanish-speaking students and families at Roosevelt.
She realized she wanted to teach when she heard the motto of the El Sistema program (a program in place at Roosevelt): music for social change. She became a teacher to use music education as a vehicle to build relationships, create positive culture, and foster confidence and citizenship within a musical ensemble.
Ms. Harder’s favorite moments as a teacher are the long-awaited, often surprising, breakthroughs with students who are difficult to reach. She finds that music has a way of cracking even the toughest of shells and says there’s nothing better than seeing students who may struggle elsewhere come into their own as part of a music ensemble. She says she is grateful to be a teacher when musical experiences help build students up, no matter who they are or where they come from.
Outside of work, Ms. Harder plays several musical instruments, including the violin, mandolin, piano, and organ, even having played in a family bluegrass band with her parents and sisters. She also enjoys biking, swimming, hiking, and going for walks with friends.