CANTON, Ohio — August means back to school and as much as it’s about getting your kiddos off to a great start, we can’t forget the men and women who lead the charge -- teachers.
In collaboration with Dunkin' Donuts, WKYC Studios decided to recognize outstanding teachers across Northeast Ohio. 3News' Kierra Cotton surprised Desiree Hargrave, a second-year music teacher at Youtz Intermediate School in Canton.
Ms. Hargrave is known for cultivating a positive atmosphere in her classroom and unique bonds with her students.
5th grader Demonte says he loves music, but it's his teacher that makes him excited to learn more.
"She’s fun, she’s a fun teacher and she bring a lot out of us," he explains. " She makes us do it, but in a fun way she doesn’t make it mean."
A talented singer and performer, Ms. Hargrave uses her passion to connect with her students. She even starts each day with a special song, helping them to internalize how special they are.
Despite having once dreamed of a life bigger than her classroom, Hargrave says being present for her students gives her purpose.
"Music is something that everyone can understand, and I think it really can reach those parts of us where we really lock up. And I know that the students that we serve in this district don't often have outlets to express a lot of the things that they're going through at home," explains Hargrave. "And so it really means a lot to me to check in on them to make sure, see, I'm already getting choked up, to make sure that they're okay, that they know someone cares about them."
Through the harmonies created in her classroom, Hargrave says she hopes her students carry much more than just their music lessons with them beyond Youtz Intermediate.
"That's what's really, really important to me, that they not only learn, you know, an appreciation and love for music, but they also can grow into really successful adults who feel confident in speaking in front of others and sharing their thoughts and emotions in meaningful ways," Hargrave says.
Hargrave is no stranger to recognition. Last year she was recognized as the 2022 Rookie Teacher of the year, but at the end of the day, she's still human and still adjusting to the spotlight.
"I was writing my bio for something else, a little while ago and I'm writing all these things, I'm like, Oh, that's me. I did that like this. This lady sounds pretty impressive."