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Montessori school closing marks new beginning for senior educator

“Some dreams grab us by the heart when we are young, and they never let go,” said Evelyn Thorpe Hibbler, owner of the successful private school, 1st Class Montessori Preschool.

“That’s kind of what happened to me. After 40 years of teaching and developing three- and four-year-olds who speak several languages and read on second- and third-grade levels, I am returning to my other passion – writing and performing my music.”

“I can see the Lord working with me through the years.” — Evelyn Thorpe Hibbler (Courtesy photo)

On Saturday (April 27), Hibbler had the last hurrah for the school’s Cordova location (the Midtown location will continue to operate). A concert featuring a student jazz ensemble, artistic performances by students and songs by Hibbler provided a spectacular finale to the Cordova school’s 10-year run.

Runa Hasan, a teacher for the four and five group, has mixed feelings about walking out of 1st Class Montessori in May for the last time.

“We’re closing the doors at the end of this school year in May, and I’m feeling all kinds of emotions,” said Hasan. “Eight of those 10 years, I have been here with Ms. Hibbler. People grow and their aspirations grow and change as well. Ms. Hibbler is very gifted, and we have always known that. She wants to share her gifts with the world.

“This is the natural, next step. I have been offered a job in the Midtown location. I have almost convinced myself to take the 30-minute commute one way and accept the offer. It is just like Ms. Hibbler to think about us, too.”

Hibbler, a former Hamilton High School majorette squad member, attended Lincoln University where she earned a bachelor’s degree in music — and was crowned Miss Lincoln University.

She later completed her master’s degree in music education from Memphis State University (now University of Memphis) in 1985, and started her teaching career in Memphis City Schools as a music teacher at Riverside Jr. High, grooming youngsters in stage performance and voice technique.

Hibbler has remarkably used the past 10 years in Cordova branding her music and perfecting her stage presence. She has a DVD, along with a CD and a book set on phonics titled, “Ms. Classy Presents the ABCs.” Ms. Classy is a cartoon adaptation of Ms. Hibbler who stars in the DVD, “Ms. Classy Presents ‘Just For You.’” Fifteen songs come with the DVD package, featuring all original music, including Hibbler’s “America” and her “alphabet song.”

The sing-along tunes teach children manners, their numbers, how to count and how to count in Spanish.

“Children like the rhythms and beat,” said Hibbler. “The changes in tempo and music help youngsters memorize their letters and numbers. We have been teaching our students how to count and recognize their letters with these songs for many years. There is even some directions in speaking Spanish, Japanese and Swahili. We began teaching our children how to sign as well. That is important.”

Hibbler joins a growing number of baby boomers who continue to work, or who choose to pursue their passion in starting their own businesses. And, according to a study by the Bankers Life Center for a Secure Retirement, many seniors are laying it all on the line – retirement funds and countless hours of work – to follow their long-held dreams of self-employment.

“I can see the Lord working with me through the years,” said Hibbler, who will be 66 this year. “If there ever was a right time to pursue my music dreams, this is the time. I am at my best, older and wiser. And, I am unafraid. At this point, I have everything to gain and nothing at all to lose. What a wonderful time to run after the life you’ve always dreamed of.

“I bring all of my life lessons into this great endeavor. I’m excited and I feel my best years are still ahead. I believe we must never lose our hope,” said the former frontwoman for the popular stage band Eminent.

“I want to take my children’s music to Disney, or Nickelodeon, on a huge platform like that,” said Hibbler. “Not having to worry about the day-to-day operations of the Cordova location will free my time up now. I am so excited about what’s to come. I want Ms. Classy lunchboxes and dolls, and definitely, an app. Who knows? The sky is the limit.”

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