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After 38 years, kids' voices are still music to her ears
City music teacher has seen a lot in 38 years

 Clintina Hankerson, who's been teaching music to the city's public school children for 38 years, said she loves the diversity and enthusiasm of the students she works with. 'She's a great teacher and a great motivator,' says a former student.
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Date published: 12/31/2012

BY ROBYN SIDERSKY

On a recent Friday morning, Clintina Hankerson led a class of fidgety fourth-graders through a handful of holiday songs--first with the lyrics projected onto the white board, then without them.

"I love your spirit. I love your enthusiasm," she told her antsy ensemble at Lafayette Upper Elementary. "But put it in the song."

After 38 years of teaching music to Fredericksburg's children, the much-beloved Hankerson knows what it takes to put on a good show.

"When I do a concert, I'm stressed," she said, "but the end result is worth it, for the students and parents."

Parent Tommy Manual said Hankerson is an encouraging voice for students--and not just when it comes to music.

When his son Jackson attended Lafayette and expressed an interest in running for student council president, Hankerson cheered him on, said Manual.

And Jackson, now 15, won.

"It really was a big moment for him when that happened," Manual recalled. "I just think that she behaved in such a way that she was going beyond what was required."

Ironically, Hankerson, 62, never intended to be a teacher. She majored in music and minored in psychology at Spelman College in Atlanta with plans to become a music therapist.

She later earned a master's degree in music therapy at Michigan State University, then moved to the Fredericksburg area after her husband landed a job at Dahlgren.

For two years, she searched for work as a music therapist, but had no success.

So she wrote to the state Department of Education to find out what she needed to do to become a teacher.

All she had to do, she learned, was student-teach. So she did, in Prince William County.

She was hired by city schools in 1974, and she hasn't left Fredericksburg since.

"I came to love my job," she said.

Eventually, she went to the University of Virginia and got her master's in elementary education, which she says made her feel more "well-rounded."

'A REWARDING CAREER'

She's taught music to the city's elementary- and middle-schoolers, starting first at Maury School and then moving to Hugh Mercer Elementary, the Original Walker-Grant, the newer Walker-Grant Middle School and last, to Lafayette Upper Elementary when it opened in 2005.


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