By Patrick Cronin
Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 6, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
[Photo by Jamie Cohen]
Pictures and fond memories of 36 years of teaching music at Hampton Academy are already off the wall in Sheila Nudd’s classroom at the school. "It’s been incredibly bittersweet," said Nudd, who is retiring at the end of the school year.
"I removed everything two weeks ago to erase as many memories as possible and concentrate on the students who are here now. I want to give them everything that I have left."
The announcement that this would be Nudd’s last year at the school was a shock to not only her current students, but also her former ones.
To them, Nudd was more than just a music teacher.
She was their mentor, the one who inspired them and they knew if they had a problem she would go the extra mile for them.
George Hosker Jr., former executive director of the Prescott Park Arts Festival in Portsmouth, had Nudd as a teacher in 1975-76.
"Sheila is the reason that I am in the arts," Hosker said.
Hampton resident Marilyn Green, who nominated Nudd as teacher of the year in 2000, said she was "Hampton Academy’s Mr. Holland Opus."
But Nudd said while she is going to miss teaching the timing was right.
"It was a tough decision, but I’ve been in a considerate amount of pain in the last couple of years," said Nudd, who injured her leg and foot at the school after accidentally stepping on an unsecured stage light. "I didn’t want to take out my pain on the kids."
Nudd recalls that she never had an aspiration to become a music teacher, but is thankful that’s the way it turned out.
Her dream was to study Australian music as a musicologist, but the only music college she could afford at the time was a state teacher’s college.
"I had to do student teaching and they sent me to Hampton Academy," Nudd said. "After my first day, I really considered trying to walk to England because I didn’t like it and I was afraid."
But Nudd said she was convinced by the then principal of the school that her calling was not as a musicologist, but as a teacher.
"He saw that I was able to do things with kids quite naturally," Nudd said. "I didn’t want to see it, I just wanted to go to Australia. But he pointed it out to me and once I did see it, I really enjoyed it."
Nudd said her goal as a teacher was to show students the importance of music.
"I think I got better as I got older," Nudd said. "If I didn’t think music was important I wouldn’t have spent 36 years doing this.
"Music has been apart of every culture at any given time. The questions I ask my students each year is 'what is music and why do we have it?’"
Nudd said she doesn’t have those answers specifically, but the arts help people solve problems.
"They help us see things differently," she said.
Over the years, Nudd has shown students music from other countries as well as how music has influenced America.
"We listen to music from the First Amendment and music from the Civil War and how important it was because it actually told us about some of the battles," Nudd said.
She also taught students about the Holocaust through music and guest speakers.
"The more I read about the Holocaust, the more I thought education was needed," Nudd said. "I used music as a backdoor approach to educating children on it. It was something that needed to be taught and this was a great place to do it."
Nudd said the greatest part of being a teacher is seeing her former students several years later.
"There is nothing better than when students come back and they’re happy," she said.
Nudd said while she is going to miss teaching, she’s looking forward to her retirement.
"My husband, who is a commercial fisherman, built me a 21-foot lobster boat," Nudd said. "I’ve never done anything like this myself, but I have worked with him one summer on his boat.
Nudd said she is also looking forward to spending time with her husband and trying out her new digital camera.
"In life, you never know how long you’re going to be here," she said. "I want to continue to enjoy the rest of my life. So far, it has been the best ride ever."