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City music teacher has seen a lot in 38 years
Date published: 12/31/2012
Hankerson also instructed at the University of Mary Washington for 13 years, "teaching young adults about to become music teachers."
She says her favorite grades to work with are third and fourth "because they'll do everything." She's found fifth- and eighth-graders the most challenging.
Over the years, she's taught her sons, now 32 and 34, their peers and then their own children.
Several teachers within the school system were her students as well.
Julian Bumbrey was a fourth-grader in Hankerson's first class in 1974, and he remembers how she carefully demonstrated for her curious students how to use each instrument.
Now a business teacher at James Monroe High School, Bumbrey said he considers Hankerson a role model for how best to reach students at all levels.
"She's a great teacher and a great motivator," he said.
Hankerson keeps in touch with many of her former students.
"It's like a family," she said. "Because I've been in the same place for so long, I claim them all as my own."
Deputy Superintendent Marci Catlett has worked with Hankerson for many years and also knows her through church.
"She's phenomenal," Catlett said, pointing out Hankerson's knack for using positive reinforcement to inspire her students. "She teaches every student in the building with the same level of energy and engagement."
When the topic of retirement comes up, Hankerson dismisses it.
"It's just been a rewarding career," she said. "Why retire?"
'THEY'VE NEVER FAILED ME'
Hankerson isn't trying to groom future "American Idol" winners. She said her role is to introduce children to different music and enhance their knowledge, and hopefully their enjoyment, of it.
"It's just meeting a child where they are and exposing them to something new," she said.
She shares with them everything from musicals, to classics, to soft jazz. As for her favorite genre, she says she is "stuck in the '70s listening to Earth Wind & Fire and Motown."
Her students are just as diverse as the music she exposes them to, something she loves about the city schools.
And in a packed school--Lafayette has more than 700 students in third- through fifth-grades--she's always in demand. Most of her students see her once every seven days, making prep times for concerts all the more precious.
Because Lafayette has 11 fourth-grade classes, their holiday concert this year was divided into two parts to accommodate them all.
That didn't mean Hankerson was going to teach them easier selections.
"I pick very challenging songs," she said. "I want to pick things the children will enjoy singing and the parents will enjoy hearing."
She typically orchestrates three concerts per year--one in the fall, one in the winter and one in the spring.
"I become a Wicked Witch From the West in concert time," she said.
But it works.
"They've never failed me," she said about her students.
Robyn Sidersky 540/374-5413