Merritt, Discovery’s top teacher, lauds arts endorsements

MADISON – Jennifer Merritt found a dream come true as band director at Discovery Middle School. She is the 2019 “Teacher of the Year.”

“I’m constantly reminded of how uplifting (and essential) it is to find a tribe of champions and advocates in fellow educators since working at Discovery,” Merritt said. “I’ve worked for amazing principals who understand the true value of a thriving band program to the school culture. I can’t express my gratitude enough.”

Her career started at Mountain Gap Middle School with band mentor, Joel Mason. In 2011, she transitioned to Madison County High School, Central School and Madison County Elementary School as full-time band and marching director. She also worked one year as chorus director.

“My previous jobs were amazing opportunities that opened many doors and introduced me to some truly fantastic people,” Merritt said. “I took the job at Discovery in 2015. I’m blessed to work at Discovery, and I’m thankful for my colleagues and their support every single day.”

After school, Merritt works with Discovery Percussion Ensemble, alongside Kevin Smart and Kevin Tran. She sponsors Discovery Color Guard, who performs with the band at home football games.

At Bob Jones High School, Merritt helps the band and color guard. “We formed the first Bob Jones Junior Varsity Winterguard this year,” she said.

“I respect the wonderful schools in North Alabama and feel privileged to serve in such a tight community that supports arts education,” Merritt said. “I truly believe supporting the arts is the greatest thing you can do for your community, and Madison excels.”

A Birmingham native, Merritt earned a bachelor’s degree in instrumental music education at the University of Alabama and a master’s degree from American Band College with Sam Houston State University in Ashland, Ore. Her primary instrument is clarinet.

From years of teaching, Merritt always will remember drum major Emily Fleming. “She is one of the hardest working people I’ve ever met and absolutely the support (when) I really needed it. Being a teacher in performance arts is hard enough, but my first job was very busy and overwhelming,” Merritt said.

“Emily and I learned to prioritize life and lead the band together. She always asked tough questions, pushed me and helped me make sure every single student was included, valued and encouraged,” Merritt said. “When I work with student leaders like that, it completely puts my job into perspective.”

“Music enriches our lives in so many ways. Human connection is one of the most important aspects of music education,” Merritt said.

Her husband Matt works as a civilian for the U.S. Army on Redstone Arsenal. “I enjoy traveling with my husband and consider myself a Netflix connoisseur,” she said.

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