By Cain Madden/NEMS Daily Journal
SALTILLO – She knew it before they called her name.
When the Mississippi Music Educators Association started reading a letter of recommendation by one of her former students, Saltillo Elementary School music teacher Nancy Long knew she was MMEA’s Musical Educator of the Year.
“I was on cloud nine,” Long said. “I have given the best years of my life to teaching music, and it is just wonderful to be recognized for it.”
Long said music and art education are important to child development, and her philosophy as an educator has been to continue to improve herself so she could provide a better education.
“You see people on Jay Leno when he goes down the street and people make fools of themselves not knowing anything,” said Long, who is a National Board Certified Teacher. “That is probably because they all learned from nothing but a workbook or a lecture.”
Children learn in many different ways, Long said, and arts help students who are visual learners or need to have something in their hands.
“When we teach with the arts, we connect to all the multiple intelligences and engage the whole mind and body,” Long said.
While Long teaches third through fifth grade music, she does much around the school, including helping others incorporate music into the classroom.
During her 23 years at Saltillo Elementary, she has impacted hundreds of children, including Anna Katherine Phipps, who is now a music major at Mississippi State University.
“I always looked forward to going to her class because learning was entertaining in every way – no two classes were the same,” Phipps said. “I honestly do not think I would have sung or played the piano if she had not been by my side.”
Growing up in Saltillo, Long had her family by her side as well.
“My mother signed me up for piano lessons, and I found that I could play anything the piano teacher put in front of me,” Long said. “My grandmother, she used to always tell me after church how much she enjoyed listening to me play, when most people don’t tell the pianist what they think.”
While she wanted to be a concert pianist, after graduating college she decided that family was more important to her, so when her youngest child was 2 she started teaching.
“I was worried that I was leaving him too young, but I had a difficult decision to make,” Long said. “This position opened up, and if someone else had got it, they may have kept it for 23 years like I have.”