By Nancy Rineman
Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 27, 2006
[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]
HAMPTON -- Teacher, mentor and humanitarian Sheila Nudd received the "Citizen of the Year" award at last week's meeting of the Hampton Rotary Club at the Ashworth Hotel.
Nudd, who just days ago retired after a 36-year career as a music teacher at Hampton Academy Junior High, also received endless accolades from those who know her and benefited from her.
Hampton lawyer and Rotarian Bob Casassa, acting as master of ceremonies, said since the award's intent is to recognize someone who embodies the virtues to which Rotarians ascribe, namely, "Service above self." Casassa said people like Nudd perform their service "without any fanfare," and the award is given in the spirit of this recognition.
Casassa said he knew first hand the merits of Nudd, having had her as a music teacher. He painted a colorful image of Nudd in those days, saying her sometimes color-streaked hair, trademark large gold hoop earring in one ear, and a voice raspy from keeping after students made him go home wondering if indeed his teacher was actually Janis Joplin.
"The best teachers are those that keep teaching you long after the semester ends," Casassa said.
That revelation came to him years after his Sheila Nudd experience. Casassa said he always questioned Nudd's untiring efforts with students in need of intervention. The thought remained with him until one day early in his law career, when he was told by a juvenile court acquaintance that in order to save seventh- and eighth-graders, "You've got to get them young." Those words led Casassa back to 1972. That was what Nudd had been up to, he realized.
"The lessons I learned from Sheila Nudd had nothing to do with music," Casassa said, sheepishly admitting he doesn't play an instrument and anyone standing near him during a song will tell you he doesn't sing, either.
Marilyn Green, of Hampton, said Nudd was the perfect recipient of the award because of her commitment to giving back to the community and to "Walk the walk." Green said Nudd's philosophy was "We must be what we teach."
"Sheila didn't choose teaching; the profession of teaching chose her," Green said.
And what has Nudd immersed herself in to endear her to so many? There's Our Lady of the Miraculous Medal Church committees, arranging trips for senior citizens, Hampton Community Coalition, Hurricane Katrina relief efforts, Hampton's Victory Garden, Coastal Clean-up, and countless food and clothing drives.
Green said when kids in Hampton had the idea for the skateboard park. They asked Nudd how to go about it. "Their vision became a reality," Green said.
Pat Bronzo, of Hampton, said she had the privilege of providing a parent's perspective. She said Nudd could have been described as that "crazy music teacher." She could also be described as a soulful musician who "doesn't just teach music; it comes from her heart."
Bronzo's two sons had Nudd for a teacher. Bronzo said grown-up children still remember things Nudd taught them in seventh grade. She had the ability to zoom into a topic and then zoom out to look at the bigger picture, Bronzo said.
Other notable events bearing Nudd's signature include walking students though educational experience of the Holocaust, and urging children to address the concept, "Am I my brother's keeper?"
Nudd established Hampton Academy's Alumni Career Day, a day when even a former New Hampshire governor was among the guests.
"They came because Sheila asked," Bronzo said, adding Nudd was the ultimate source of comfort and support, and a genuine pillar of strength.
At graduation time, eighth graders earned the distinction of receiving a personal letter from Nudd, written in fountain pen to become a lasting treasure.
After the many recollections, it was time for a grateful and humble Nudd to leave her seat at the table she shared with her husband, Bob, and to step up to the podium.
"I've stood on the shoulders of giants in this community," Nudd said.
Nudd received a plaque memorializing her efforts and achievements on behalf of Hampton youth. She was also given $1,000 from the Hampton Rotary Club to donate to the charity of her choice. Nudd said the money will go to the Hampton Community Coalition as a scholarship for one of Hampton's homeless children.