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Spotlight - Ann Bryant
1. You’ve taught for 57 years now. What are some of your most memorable moments.
My most memorable moment in teaching: when I was presented fifty yellow roses for fifty years of teaching. The faculty practiced a song after school each day (after I left) and sang "The Yellow Rose of Hatton" to me. Fifty students...one at a time gave me a yellow rose...and Britt Godwin suprised me at the beginning of one my programs and sang to me the song he sang for me in Kindergarten "The Most Beautiful Girl in The World". At the time Britt was the opening act and lead guitar player for Tracey Byrd. Other memorable moments is meeting ex-students who have good memories of music classes, the old witch at Halloween, programs they were in, songs they remember, etc.
2. How has teaching changed over the years?
Due to T.V. and technology, the kids know a lot more now than when I first started teaching. Sometimes when I introduce a new song some of them will say "I learned that on the Barney or the Wiggles show." Some children need to be rewarded for their behavior - growing up, we did as we were told because it was the right thing to do, and our parents and teachers expected it. Now, we give rewards, which is OK but our set of values has changed over the years. Technology has changed the world. When I first started teaching, I had a piano, a record player and a few records. When the children danced or did action to songs, the floor moved and the needle on the reocrd player jumped, and we had to stop and start over. In the 'old' days we had a filmstrip or an old movie of Chopin playing the piano. Now, I have cassettes, CDs, DVD's, videos, Power Point and on and on...the world has changed...and about the time I learn to operate a DVD player...something new will come along. I am still trying to learn computer while the kindergarteners already know a lot about a computer.
3. Outside of public school, you teach private piano lessons. How many students do you teach? Do you have an idea of how many you've taught privately over the years?
Hundreds and hundreds. A lot of them play for church, school, etc. However, I wish I had kept count of the ones I have met after they were adults who would say "I wish my parents had made me practice and not allowed me to quit." Yes, I am still teaching private lessons. Some students are a real challenge; piano practice is done after soccer, band, baseball, football, basketball and dance classes. Presently I have less than forty students. In the past, when my kids left home and I did not have the responsibility of taking care of family I had more than 65 students before and after school, and all day Saturday.
4. What’s an “average” week like for you?
Mrs. Bryant, thank you for taking time out of your schedule to talk with me. I publicly wanted to thank you for your years of service and dedication to Bridge City, and sharing your love and talent for music with all of us. And, on a personal side note...thanks for making me practice while I was in Jr. High!
Updated Comments from Mrs. Bryant - June 2010
I have 3 grandchildren, Marc Mesch, Josh Landry, and Raun Bryant, and one great grandson, Aden Bryant. (twin sister of Marc was killed in B.C. in 1999)..
Long Time Teacher
At Bridge City Hatton Elementary
From Beaumont enterprise
April 13, 2003
Ann Bryan has been at Bridge City as music teacher for more than 50 years. When she was a child learning to play the piano, Ann Bryant’s parents sometimes paid her music teachers with eggs from their Port Neches farm. The dedication to learning a musical instrument became a devotion to music.
The devotion became a vocation when Bryan started teaching “her life’s passion” at 18 –
Two years after she graduated from high school. Mrs. Bryant taught music in Orange County for 54 years. She has spent 50 of those year at Roy M. Hatton Elementary School in Bridge City.
“As the days get closer, I’m starting to have second thought,” she said recently while relaxing in her classroom after an eight-hour day of teaching pre-kindergarten through third-grade students.
When she’s done at school, Bryant gives piano lessons at her home until about 9 p.m. The busy schedule leaves little time for hobbies or other things in her life, Bryant said. Music is her life, she said.
Bryant, a Port Neches native, was exposed to music at her family’s farm.
Her father would play music for the cows, believing that it helped them produce more milk. Bryant said the music made her more productive, too. It helped time pass quickly and eased along her chores.
Bryant’s father enrolled her in piano lessons after recognizing her natural talent. She was barely able to reach the piano pedals when she took her first lesson.
Bryant has spent a year studying music in a St. Louis college when a teaching shortage in her home state prompted her to return. College students could get full time jobs teaching in Texas public schools if they agreed to continue studying teaching.
She began her teaching career in 1948 at Colburn Elementary School in the Riverside addition in Orange. She started teaching in Bridge City in 1952. “Oh, that all makes me sound old,” she said.
Bryant ultimately earned a college degree after marrying fellow teach Cecil Bryant. The couple has been married 54 years and has two children and two grandchildren.
Bryant’s colleagues said she doesn’t just teach music. She teaches history and sociology while boosting an individual’s self-esteem, they said.
Lynn Gremillion, a third-grade teacher at Hatton, said Bryant has instilled her love of music in her students, including Gremillion’s son, Brian. The 23-year-old college student started taking piano lessons from Bryant when he was a child, and has continued to take weekly music lessons from her, Gremillion said.
Autism compromised Brian’s learning abilities, but Bryant’s piano lessons parked his interest in learning more about music, Gremillion said. Bryant taught him about the great composers and musicians who overcame disabilities.
“It gave him such self-esteem,” Gremillion said. “I give her all the credit for that.”
Bryant said she never thought about doing anything beside teaching music. She teaches in a laid back style, but her classes aren’t “all fun and games,” she said. She makes sure students pronounce composers’ names correctly, and she encourages them to learn historical facts about the music that they’re playing.
Bryant’s classroom is decorated with posters honoring the masters of classical music and the country’s founding fathers. Photos of the Space Shuttle Columbia crew that perished in February are displayed next to song lyrics of a child dreaming about going to the moon. Lyrics of patriotic songs are written against a Stars and Stripes motif. Some classroom decorations are new. Others reflect the years that Bryant has spent in the room.
Bryant has taught music in the same classroom since Hatton opened in 1952.
“You’d think a music teacher who had taught for 54 years would be stuck in the Dark Ages, but she’s not,” school counselor Patsy Dowden said. Dowden, 54, was one of Bryant’s students in the late 1950s.
“I have the utmost respect for this woman,” Dowden said. “She works hard all day every day doing something she loves.”
The music that helped Bryant work a little harder on her family’s farm still helps her get through her work days. “I don’t know what I’d do if I wasn’t teaching,” she said. “I don’t what I’d do without music.”
MORE ABOUT ANN BRYANT
Ann Bryant has been a member of Winfree Baptist Church for many years. We were still in the little church down 62 when she came and became our pianist. She directed a Christmas program the first year she was at Winfree, and I was still in the choir. Then when we moved to the church where it is today, we did not have an organ. There was a place for an organ in the church, so she loaned her organ to the church.
One night Brother Self , (our pastor then) announced that Mrs. Bryant was giving her organ to the church, and we were all invited to her house after church for refreshments. (Ann was real easy to turn red, and she turned very red, because she knew nothing about this). Her mother and daddy, Mr. and Mrs. Kitchens from Port Neches had bought her a new organ and had it delivered after she left for church. We all went over to her house in Bridge City, and there sat a beautiful new organ in her house. She was speechless. She is still our organist at the church today, and the pianist, Denese Murray Truncale was one that she taught music to.