A Mentor Remembered

I'm a little late posting this one, as it took some time to reflect and overcome a bit of sadness. The November Blog - a - Month topic was about who has helped me grow as a teacher. I'd like to take a moment to reflect back on the man who inspired me to become a music teacher and how my experiences in his band program shaped me as an individual and prepared me for what lies ahead.

Throughout my life, I always knew that I loved teaching - when I arrived home from school each day, I would line up all my stuffed animals and make my sister sit in my "classroom" while I read books out loud to the "class." My mom said I was always very bossy when my friends came over, but I think I just had high expectations for discipline ;)! As I got into high school, I didn't read to my class after school - but I did work at my synagogue as a teacher's assistant for Hebrew school and Sunday school.

Most importantly, however, I was a proud member of my high school band. I couldn't get enough of it - constantly staying after school to file music, to help other students, or just to "hang out" with the band director until he kicked me out. I had definitely found my calling and I wanted to be like him - a high school band director. When Mr. Haynes was absent from school, he would sometimes ask me to conduct/rehearse the band.

I had no idea what I was doing at the time - but I knew I loved it.

When it came time for me to make a decision as to where to apply for college, I knew I wanted to major in music and attend a school with a big marching band. Mr. Haynes told me,"Michelle - don't become a music teacher unless you're OK playing Christmas music every year. You're going to have to, if you teach music." And he was right (at least until I came to Davis). But that didn't stop me from following the dream to become a music teacher.

After 4.5 years at The University of Alabama, the time came for me to graduate and Mr. Haynes was there to give a me glowing recommendation to Fulton County Schools. I was blown away that he put so much faith and trust into me, without seeing how I had grown in college. He really believed in me and knew that my passion for teaching music would make me successful in any music room setting.

A few years into teaching, Mr. Haynes reached out and shared that he was now teaching Elementary music, which was my "specialty." He asked me if I would be willing to share some lessons and some music with him. That moment was life - changing. My mentor, the man that inspired me to become a music teacher, was asking me for help with lessons. Surely, I could not turn him down. That's by far the biggest compliment that I, as a music teacher, could have ever received.

Mr. Haynes and I kept in touch, we last spoke a few months ago about Chorus (among other personal topics). And then the day after my birthday, I got a phone call.

Haynes had been working at an elementary school, where my former Asst. Principal was now working. When I saw her name pop up on caller ID, I answered, to find a very melancholy voice on the other side. She asked me if I had heard the news, which I had not. Mr. Haynes had been murdered the night before, in a storage unit in Sandy Springs. The irony is that I had a storage unit in the same place, and had seen Mr. Haynes there a number of times because he and his girlfriend owned a Spa in the same shopping center. We would always go say hello to him after stopping at the storage unit. All of my pictures, all of my memories - everything that reminded me of him was in that storage unit. And to think he was murdered there - on my birthday.

To hear about the news coverage, click on his image

I miss him dearly. And I know that I'll always remember him and hold him responsible for my career choice. When I have those days where I doubt myself as a teacher (we all have those, right?) or where I am extremely exhausted, I think about him and remember why I chose this career. I feel like a small part of what I'm doing is keeping his legacy alive.

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8105 Roberts Drive| Atlanta, GA | 30350 | mgimpelevich@DavisAcademy.org

Tel: 770.671.0085 | Fax: 770.671.8838

© 2014 Michelle Cygielman Gimpelevich, Davis Academy Lower School Music