Each year Anna Hennessy, P. ’34 introduces a new group of Grade 5 students to strings education. With steadiness and patience, she teaches them how to hold the instrument and produce sound. Over the course of that first year, students learn that exponential growth is possible when they commit to working at a skill a little each day. And, more importantly, they experience what it means to take a risk and try a new skill often with no prior knowledge or exposure.
Over time, Mrs. Hennessy’s carefully crafted approach supports students as they build technical skills, but this is only a small portion of her teaching. She routinely introduces students to new performers and composers that bring their own experiences and story to the music they make. She invites students to be such artists through coursework that inspires play, experimentation, and collaboration.
Mrs. Hennessy creates a classroom community grounded in belonging. — Marie Reed, Head of the Middle School
“Young people will only take such risks when they feel known, appreciated, and celebrated by the people around them. Mrs. Hennessy creates a classroom community grounded in belonging,” says Head of the Middle School Marie Reed, P. ’27 & ’30.
It’s for these reasons that Anna Hennessy was awarded the 2022 Golden Apple Award for outstanding teachers. She joins a select group representing only 2% of area teachers to receive this distinction, with more than 1,000 nominations submitted this year.
“I am most honored and humbled to be the recipient of the Golden Apple Award this year for St. Anne’s-Belfield School,” says Mrs. Hennessy. “Working with middle school students, in the kaleidoscope of their emerging identities and passions, has been more challenging and rewarding than I could have known when I set foot in this school four years ago. The people I’ve met, the children who have become teens, the colleagues who teach me how to navigate this particular moment in education — I owe it to you.”
The musicians in Mrs. Hennessy’s classroom improvise new sounds and explore what’s possible. From composing original soundtracks that accompany animated films to creating their own films and accompanying soundtrack, students learn that music and sound shape them and how they see the world. Students with years of musical experience sit adjacent to students who are only just beginning their journey with an instrument, and Mrs. Hennessy meets each right where they are. She builds confidence and camaraderie; the orchestra is, after all, a team sport. Nowhere is this more apparent than when the orchestra performs for the community. The run-of-show always includes rehearsed pieces alongside improvisation and original student compositions.
At an age when students can develop a fixed idea of who they are or who they might become, Mrs. Hennessy invites students to consider what’s possible. Through her orchestra classroom, Anna Hennessy helps students see themselves, their peers, and their world in new ways.