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MDE Names Gadd as 2019 Mississippi Teacher of the Year

The Mississippi Department of Education named Lafayette High School’s Hannah Gadd the 2019 Mississippi Teacher of the Year Friday.

Gadd, choir director for 6th-12th grade, said she was in disbelief when the department announced she was the winner of the prestigious honor. She even asked Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education, if she really had called her name.

“As I was reading my acceptance speech, it all started to sink in,” Gadd said. “I had been riding an emotional rollercoaster all day.”

Gadd had additional emotions besides her being named Teacher of the Year. Her brother has recently returned from a deployment to the Middle East this month. He was able to make it to the banquet along with her father. Gadd’s mother passed away last year and she said she wished she could have been there when she received this honor.

A local show choir sang the song “For Good” from the Broadway production of Wicked during the ceremony, a song that Gadd said her mother loved.

“In that moment, I realized that mom was there all along and she had the best seat in the house,” Gadd said.

Gadd was announced as the district’s Teacher of the Year in early January in addition to her recognization as the Lafayette High School’s representative.

She follows in the footsteps of fellow teacher Whitney Drewery, who currently represents the state as Mississippi’s Teacher of the Year.

Gadd said through this process she has been fortunate enough to meet incredible educators and bond over the power of music.

“My students are at the center of every lesson in my classroom, and I fiercely believe that students can do anything if they are giving the opportunities and tools to succeed,” she said.

Gadd has not been the only one to benefit from this experience. She said she and her student have extra confidence and excitement.

“Music is ‘Us’ before ‘I’,” she said. “This experience has reaffirmed my belief that we must work together to change the world.”

With this newfound opportunity, Gadd said she hopes to serve as an advocate for teachers and students who are involved in the arts or those who have been impacted by the power of music.

She said when she thinks of Mississippi, she thinks of the arts.

“Whether it’s the written word, strokes of a brush or strums from a guitar, Mississippi is home to some of the most influential artists in history,” she said.

Gadd follows in the footsteps of fellow teacher Whitney Drewery, who represents the state as the 2018 Mississippi Teacher of the Year.

Gadd said for Lafayette County School District to have back-to-back Mississippi Teachers of the Years is an incredible accomplishment.

“Every single teacher, student, and administrator is anchored to excellence,” she said. “I could not be more excited or honored to represent my students, colleagues and school district.”

The Mississippi Teacher of the Year program recognizes exemplary teachers in the state. The award recipient also receives a $5,000 stipend and will share expertise through various presentations and activities. Gadd will represent Mississippi in the National Teacher of the Year competition. In addition, she will travel to Washington, D.C., to meet the President and First Lady and will participate in a Rose Garden recognition ceremony at the White House.

By Talbert Toole
Lifestyles Editor, Hotty Toddy News

Miss Mississippi 2019: Mary Margaret Hyer of Hattiesburg wins crown

Miss Riverbend Mary Margaret Hyer of Hattiesburg was crowned Miss Mississippi Saturday night in Vicksburg. The televised pageant at the Vicksburg Convention Center concluded the event that started with preliminary competitions in talent and social impact initiative/evening wear categories Wednesday night.

Hyer is a 2018 graduate of the University of Mississippi.

Her social impact initiative is promoting organ donation.

First runner-up was Miss Delta Charley Ann Nix of Batesville; second runner-up was Miss Hattiesburg Macy Mitchell of Petal; third runner-up was Miss Dixie Molly May of Houston; and fourth runner-up was Miss University Blair Wortsmith of Little Rock, Arkansas.

Hyer assumes the title from Miss Mississippi 2018 Miss Tupelo Asya Branch of Booneville and will be competing in the Miss America Pageant. The date and location of the Miss America Pageant are yet to be announced, though it is scheduled to air on NBC.

Staff reports, Mississippi Clarion Ledger

UM Graduate Wins Grammy Award

Nina Cole Garguilo performs as part of acclaimed choral ensemble


Nina Cole Garguilo, B.M. ’11, has added “Grammy winner” to her list of accomplishments. A member of the Phoenix Chorale of Arizona, Garguilo shared in the group’s 2015 Grammy for best choral performance, presented Feb. 15 in Los Angeles.

Garguilo attributes much of her success to date to the things she learned in the Department of Music. “I am extremely grateful for my time at the University of Mississippi,” she said. “I had never really  considered Ole Miss until I realized that all of the important musical role models in my life – from my voice instructor to my choir directors and family friends – were Ole Miss alumni.

“Because of this musical enrichment, I had cultivated a broad range of experiences that would ultimately shape me as an artist.”

Garguilo’s success comes as no shock, said Donald Trott, UM professor of music and director of choral activities.  “Nina is a very talented soprano, and it brings pride to all of us here at Ole Miss to see her excelling and performing at such a high level,” Trott said.

A native of Memphis, Tennessee, Garguilo is in her fourth season with the Phoenix Chorale. While performing with the group, she also is pursuing a doctorate in vocal performance from Arizona State University.

Phoenix Chorale is no stranger to the Grammys. The group has been nominated for eight Grammys, winning three times. They are considered among the most talented choral ensembles in the country.

When not performing, Garguilo enjoys teaching students of all ages, whether they are just learning the fundamentals of singing or preparing for performances. As her grandfather and Oxford native, William Grundy Cole, instilled a love for music in her life, Garguilo strives to do the same for her students.

“The recent Grammy win means so much to me,” she said. “The award-winning album, ‘Rachmaninoff: All-Night Vigil,’ is proof that with collaboration, hard work and sincerity, something can be created that is both wholly human and completely divine.”


Article by Mackenzie Quick.