A music teacher throughout her career, Denise Barnhart has joined the faculty at Redcliffe Elementary School as a first-time assistant principal.

She has taught music at the elementary and high school level. She spent the past six years in that position at Oakwood-Windsor Elementary School.

For several years, Barnhart also has served as a music instructor with the Aiken County School District's Gateway summer arts program.

When she enrolled at West Virginia University, “I was a music education major from day one,” Barnhart said. “I took a lot of performance classes, and I was attending college with the help of a performance grant.”

She taught music for kindergarten through fifth grade in Pennsylvania for eight years before moving to South Carolina.

After a year at Redcliffe, she spent 2008 to 2014 at Oakwood-Windsor.

“It was a lot of fun there; a sweet little school,” Barnhart said. “It's still an important place in the community, and the parents care so much about their children.”

For the past three years, she collaborated with other teachers and received Savannah River Nuclear Solutions mini-grants of up to $1,000. Each grant focused on the integration of music with science and math.

“Math achievement is an area of difficulty across the board,” Barnhart said. “The SRNS grants are just phenomenal.”

With the first grant, she joined other teachers in combining music with the concept of sound waves.

The following year, Barnhart also served as a reading and math interventionist and used music as a bridge to help her students.

With the third grant, she worked with kindergarten teachers – obtaining parachute materials, beanbags and similar items.

Barnhart does regret that her new schedule as an assistant principal will require her to give up the Gateway program each summer. However, she will continue as Trinity United Methodist Church's music director.

She received her Master's degree in administration and supervision from Southern Wesleyan University earlier this year.

“I think I bring a different mindset,” Barnhart said, “because I can see the school as a whole. I've been interacting with everybody, and when you're a musician, you become very process-oriented and can think outside the box.”

Rob Novit is the Aiken Standard's education reporter.