DEL CITY — The uplifting sound of choir members singing and clapping echoed in the halls of Del City High School on Tuesday.
The music flooded the choir room and the neighboring room of the choral director, Brenda Mechling, or “mama Mech,” as her students call her.
The sounds were not unlike those that first captivated Mechling when she was 3 years old, singing in her church choir in Kingfisher.
“I remember that the louder I sang, the more people clapped and smiled. It was a wonderful feeling. From then on, I was hooked.”
Last month, Mechling was named teacher of the year for the Midwest City-Del City School District. She directs the Del City High School choir and teaches music education, choral literature and piano and has a private voice studio.
“When I heard that I won, I was so excited. I don't remember what I said or did for the first 10 minutes,” she said.
Mechling's mother assured her she said nothing out of the norm during the award ceremony.
Mechling, 57, has taught in the district 16 years and is a Del City High School graduate who earned a music education degree from the University of Central Oklahoma. She's the mother of five, grandmother of eight and is a juxtaposition of enthusiasm and grace.
Extroverted yet humble, she is unable to contain her passion for music, or for teaching.
“I feel like I am meant to be doing this,” she said. “People have this misconception that all there is to music is playing an instrument or singing a song, but there is so much more to it than that.”
Mechling explained that Del City, landlocked by Oklahoma City to the north, south and west and Midwest City to the east, has not seen much urban renewal in recent years.
The comparatively small 5A district takes in a lot of small houses and rental properties, resulting in a mobile school district population.
“A lot of my kids have parents who are working two jobs. A lot of these kids are raising their siblings. They need a place to go where they can release their stress, where someone will be honest with them but where they can still find comfort,” Mechling said.
“There are a lot of life lessons that can be learned from music. Musicians are the peacekeepers; they bring everyone together under a common passion.”
She said music teaches her students discipline and how to be team players.
“Music involves science, math and history,” she said. “It teaches you about anatomy and how to breathe when singing. When they learn about the renaissance in history, I try to incorporate music from that time period into my classes. There is not a class I can walk into here that music wouldn't apply to.”
Mechling said her door is always open to students who need to be heard.
“I get everything. From struggling with classes to struggling at home, this is where they come,” she said.
Two years ago when faculty member Katherine Lopez died tragically, students flocked to Mechling's door.
Together, they sang the Latin song, “Esto Les Digo,” which translated means, “where two or more are gathered, so too I will be.”
Mechling said her students hold nine fundraisers a year to pay for instruments, uniforms and to help support the Mid-Del Food Pantry.
Even with the fundraisers, there are times when students can't afford uniforms, instruments or a ticket to travel to a concert. Former students often lend a helping hand.
“I'll make a post on Facebook about something a student needs and we never have to wait too long,” she said.
As teacher of the year, Mechling was given gift cards, a 46-inch flat screen TV, blankets, candy, fruit baskets, a Kindle and the year's use of a 2013 GMC Terrain, leased for free excluding gas and insurance, from Hudiburg Auto Group in Del City.
“I had no idea all this stuff came with it,” Mechling said. “I got the fruit basket and then things kept on coming. But I'm not complaining.”
After her youngest daughter reaches her own career goals, Mechling said, she hopes to pursue a master's degree in counseling or psychology. A poster on her office wall sums up her teaching philosophy.
“Life is like a piano,” it reads. “What you get out of it depends on how well you play it.”