Unaka grad is Hamblen County teacher of the year

Published 10:06 am Wednesday, February 11, 2015

NW2010 Hamblen Teacher Richardson

Unaka High School alumnus Jonathan Richardson recently was recognized as Elementary Teacher of the Year for the Hamblen County School district.
Richardson graduated from UHS in 1994. He has worked for Manley Elementary School in Morristown as a music teacher for nine years.
He credits his high school freshman English and French teacher, Maggie Green, with inspiring him to make a career in education.
“It was her enthusiasm and her love for her students that made me want to be a teacher,” he said.
As for the music portion of the equation, Richardson grew up playing music in his church, Popular Grove Baptist, and received piano and organ lessons from David Estep.
Richardson didn’t experience music in the classroom much in school; he had one music appreciation class at Unaka but no music performance classes.
During college he observed Leisa Nave, his predecessor at Manley Elementary, and found his niche in education.
“After observing her class, I fell in love with elementary music,” Richardson said.
Richardson taught his first year as a teacher in Greene County. The past 15 years have been in Hamblen County, with the last nine at Manley.
This is the first time Richardson has received the Elementary Teacher of the Year award.
“I was totally shocked,” he said. “In two weeks’ time, I had won the building-level teacher of the year and then the elementary teacher of the year. It caught me off guard when they announced it. I was shaking I was so excited. It took me some time to calm down.”
Richardson works to bring humor into the classroom and to make each student’s time with him an escape from the rest of the world.
“Childhood can be hard,” he said. “You don’t know what life is like for the students outside of the classroom. I want their time in my classroom to be an escape, where they can learn and appreciate music. They may not all become professional musicians, but I want to give them the confidence that they can perform if they want to.”
Not only do students learn music in his classroom, Richardson said the curriculum brings in topics and skills from all other classrooms.
“Language arts, science, math and social studies standards are regularly implemented into my music lessons,” he said. “Almost everything can be a part of a music lesson.”
Richardson also works to incorporate different cultures into his lessons.
His favorite part of being a teacher is interacting with the students each day and the excitement they share when they get to spend time with him.
“They get so excited,” he said. “I feel like a superstar. They greet me with smiles and hugs. They want to come see me and they want to come make music. That makes it all worthwhile. Even when I have a bad day, it makes me feel better.”
Richardson received a Bachelor of Music degree with a minor in French from Carson-Newman University, a Master of Arts in Education degree from Tusculum College and Specialist and Doctoral degrees in Education from Lincoln Memorial University.
Throughout his career, Richardson has led numerous professional development opportunities for Hamblen County teachers on topics including Multicultural Education, Music in Special Needs Classrooms, Arts Integration and Brain Games.
He has also provided training at professional conferences on the state and national levels.
Richardson lives in Morristown where he has served as a public school music teacher and organist of First Baptist Church since 1998. As a published composer, he enjoys writing for piano, organ, and children’s voices.

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