Hillary Harder, Teacher of the Year (Elementary)

Why did you choose to work in education/at a school?

I chose to work in education because I wanted to work through music to build community and work with kids, especially those who may not otherwise have access to instrumental music. I love studying music and performing as an individual, but I realized that my true calling was to empower others through music.

What brought you to Elkhart Community Schools?

I wanted to work at Roosevelt when I learned about El Sistema, the music education philosophy originating in Venezuela whose motto is “social change through music” and values inclusion, community-building, and high-level ensemble musicianship. Roosevelt is one of the only schools in the US with an El Sistema-inspired music program, and it is an amazing opportunity to help foster growth in our school community through music.

How long have you worked at ECS? Your school?

I have been with Elkhart Community Schools and Roosevelt for two years.

Any touching work-related stories you’d like to share?

The stories that stick with me the most are the times when kids who are up against a lot of challenges and can be tough to reach, thrive in a musical ensemble. I have seen countless children who struggle in other areas (both in and out of school) find immense joy and expression through music.

We talk about our students finding their passions – what are your passions?

My passions all kind of boil down to the same thing: sharing stories. I love reading books, long conversations with friends, thinking about philosophical and theological questions, writing songs, and listening to the radio. I like to connect with people through their stories.

What do you enjoy doing outside of work?

Outside of school I sing in several choirs in the community, am active in my church, play violin and mandolin, go for walks, and spend time with friends. I also love to travel.

We have a strong focus on literacy at the district – what are you currently reading?

I just finished reading all of the novels by Isabel Allende that I could find in the Elkhart Public Library. This year I also ready books by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TC Boyle, and Anne Lamott. Next on my list is Barbara Kingsolver.