Hayley Gotzsche2

Hayley Gotzsche of Roscoe has been a teacher for eight years, the past three at South Beloit’s Willowbrook Middle School. Principal Dr. Michael Plourde shared, “When we interviewed Hayley, I had her teach a live class of students. It was evident from the beginning that she was special. I still recall students telling me after class that I HAD to hire her. Unfortunately, nothing could have prepared her for teaching choir through a pandemic. Despite all the logistical challenges, she and her students thrived, using music as an outlet for the additional stress and anxiety of the last year and a half.” Gotzsche was nominated by several students, one of whom wrote that she’s inspired her to become a music teacher. Gotzsche wrote, “While I have had a handful of students over the years who have gone on to study Music Education or entered the world of music performance, the most significant goal of my teaching career is to create lifelong lovers and appreciators of music who will seek out music throughout their lives even beyond their schooling years.” Another nominator shared that, “I used to not be able to read music at all and had barely any background, but now I can read music, count beats, see measures.” Other students praised her for being understanding and for making class fun. Another one wrote, “Every single day I look forward to going to her class. Even when I am having a bad day, I always have a smile while I'm in her class.” Gotzsche includes students’ families with opportunities such as fundraising, a “bring your family to choir” event, event assistance and communicating class highlights. Having initially taught at a school with a higher rate of students living below the poverty line, Gotzsche learned quickly that beside teaching music, she’d be working “to fulfill the basic needs of my students while also helping them focus on their own future and goals. Because my choir students had to trust me in the classroom in order to exhibit their voices, a very vulnerable experience for many, they were also able to see me as a trustworthy authority figure who was as likely to provide a gift card to purchase groceries as I was to help fill out a college application.” The introduction of COVID presented another challenge. In March 2020, as schools were shutting down, Gotzsche had been coordinating a school play. Opening night was four weeks away. Not wanting to disappoint students or their families, she decided the show must go on! With a supportive assistant director; door drop-offs (props, scripts & schedules); and lots of editing, she pieced the play together for everyone to watch at home on Zoom. “Though the play certainly did not very closely resemble a live production, we were still able to provide some normalcy (and deliver some opening night presents) for the cast. Students were able to watch their performance with family from the comfort of their own homes, which brought some much-needed comfort and sense of accomplishment during a difficult time.” Gotzsche considers herself lucky to “have the opportunity to teach my students and to hopefully enrich their lives through music.”