Sitting in front of a semicircle of students, Robin Spriggs began leading the group through an enunciation exercise.
“Betty bought a bit of butter,” the group sang, smiling at the tongue twisting phrases they were spouting out.
The Jefferson Honor Choir —  a collection of fourth and fifth graders — went through an audition phase that tested their ability to sustain pitch, tone and their general musical ability. The choir is part of a larger choir made from the honor choirs at each grade school in the Ardmore City School system. Collectively, the group is a choir made from the best-of-the-best elementary singers.
Spriggs, Jefferson Elementary School music teacher, said the choir began about 10 years ago in Ardmore City Schools and has made each school’s group stronger.
“It’s worked out really well because by ourselves each of our choirs are really small,” Spriggs said. “But when we come together as a mass choir it helps our kids with confidence.”
The choir practices after school and Spriggs works with the students on performance etiquette, reading music and on sharpening their singing abilities. The group typically does a Christmas music concert and a performance in the spring as well. The students will be traveling to Durant in May to compete at the Red River Musical Festival, an event that puts several of the state’s top choirs against one another.
“You can see it in their eyes there’s more of a focus,” Spriggs said of the students when they compete. “We’re little but we enjoy singing and learning.”
Spriggs said many of the students she has taught in her 12 years at Jefferson continue to pursue music throughout their life. One former student of hers will attend East Central University on a vocal scholarship. Spriggs said through her career she has gotten to see talent and character develop in her students.
“A lot of kids go on and carry their choir throughout their middle school and high school years,” she said.
Through working with each other, Spriggs said the students gain more than just musical talent.
“We’re all kind of one big family,” she said. “Their confidence has really built. They’ve gotten to live the old saying ‘there is strength in numbers’ and know there’s comfort in numbers.”
This year has marked a particularly special time for Spriggs, as she was named the Jefferson Elementary Teacher of the Year for the 2016-2017 school year. Spriggs said she has been selected for the award before, but this year’s nomination caught her off guard.
“It was a real surprise,” she said of the award. “For some reason this has a greater meaning to it.
“I’ve been teaching 19 years full-time and 21 years of full experience in education and it just is very honoring and it makes me feel good.”
Spriggs said the staff conducted a special breakfast in her honor for winning the award and several of the teachers and students brought her gifts and goodies for the accomplishment. She said the display of care and appreciation she received has only reinforced her career choice.
“It was really special,” she said with a smile. “It kind of makes you feel like a rock star.
“This (Jefferson) is the only place that I’ve been and it has always been my home.”