From an early age, Irving High School orchestra teacher Carly Addison knew she was destined to become a music teacher. Now entering her eighth year of teaching, she looks back on what first ignited that spark.

“I had great music teachers, especially early on,” says Addison, an Irving native. “At Townley Elementary School, my music teacher, Linda Hoffman, was the teacher that inspired me the most. She was excellent at what she did, and I am still in touch with her now. She was the kind of teacher that really invested in her students.”

After finishing at Townley, Addison proceeded on her musical journey making stops at Lamar Middle School and Nimitz High School. Similarly, Addison benefited from phenomenal teachers at those campuses who were willing to go the extra mile to help her succeed.

“Orchestra with Mr. Adrian Demian in sixth grade at Lamar was kind of a turning point for me as far as knowing what I wanted to do for the rest of my life,” says Addison. “He was so passionate about orchestra, but he also cared very deeply about us. I started to see how you could impact students not just through music education, but also through the relationships you can build as they learn something new.”

While at Nimitz, the support continued. Her theater teacher, Jonathan Wilson, was the type of teacher who knew every student in the program. Despite having hundreds of students walk in and out of his classroom, he would know his individual students’ talents and how to push them to become better. 

Her theater tech teacher, Richard McKean, had taught choir for several years before retiring. He went out of his way to provide Addison with private voice lessons once a week to help her prepare for her scholarship auditions.

“I just had a series of teachers that really invested in me as a person as well as my arts education,” says Addison. “There was never a question for me. I knew I wanted to be a fine arts teacher, and I knew I wanted to come back to Irving ISD. It was a very clear path.”

As a National Merit Finalist, Addison went on to study at Harding University on a full ride where she majored in Instrumental Music Education. As a freshman, Addison was afforded the opportunity to teach at a school of music that was affiliated with her university. Typically, most universities will have you wait until your senior year of college to be a student teacher.

“I had been teaching in front of professors and getting critiqued by them since I was 18. By the time I was 22 and was in a classroom of my own, I had had so much observed experience,” says Addison. “That made a huge difference for me as I was able to learn a lot about upper-level performance skills and refine my classroom techniques and pedagogy.”

Addison taught in Arkansas for one year before making the move back to Texas – and back home to Irving ISD. She taught at Austin Middle School for four years then followed her students up into Irving High School.

“My time at Austin was the greatest four years ever,” says Addison. “If it were not for how awesome those kids were, I never would have interviewed to move up to Irving High School. I only wanted to go because of the students. The ones who were sixth graders when I first started at Austin are now seniors at Irving High.”

Addison credits the support of her principal at the time, Toscha Reeves, for believing in her and her students which, in turn, allowed them to accomplish so many great feats.

“They have a perfect record. They have only gotten sweepstakes every year. They have dominated at All-City and All-Region,” says Addison. “But it really has not been about the results. The musical reward has been really gratifying, but the people they have become and the kind of family we have created, has been just beyond what I can put into words.”

While she was at Austin, Irving ISD students rallied around a fellow classmate to ensure she was not left out. With the help of Nimitz High School engineering students, they were able to design and develop a prosthetic so she could play the cello.

“The theme I have learned since being in education is that kids are so incredible when you give them the opportunity to shine,” says Addison. “I had eighth graders who already knew how to play cello who flipped their instrument to the other side and learned how to play with her in the beginner class so she would not feel different or ostracized.”

Now as members of the Irving High School Orchestra, her students have had the privilege to perform at the Dallas Zoo, San Antonio, Irving ISD’s annual State of the District event and even the Texas State Capitol building in Austin, with more performances sure to follow. 

Addison hopes to keep the program running strong for many years to come. By exposing her students to different venues and trips to colleges and universities, she is paying it forward the same way her teachers did for her. 

“Here in Irving ISD, teachers have the incredible opportunity to change kids’ lives. I do not say that to minimize what other districts or other teachers are doing. For a lot of our students, especially those who are economically disadvantaged, they really rely on us as teachers to show them how to get where they want to go,” says Addison. “That is why I have told my students from day one, ‘I will give you the tools you need to be successful if you are willing to receive them and use them.’”