Former orchestra teacher leaves a legacy of love

Ashley Guice passed away after a struggle with cancer

A PASSION FOR TEACHING. Guice teaches her orchestra students at Sevier Middle in this 2013 file photo. She spent more than 25 years teaching passing along her passion for music to students of all ages.

Sara Whitley

A PASSION FOR TEACHING. Guice teaches her orchestra students at Sevier Middle in this 2013 file photo. She spent more than 25 years teaching passing along her passion for music to students of all ages.

You can lose a part of yourself and never know it. 

Former Sevier orchestra teacher Ashley Guice recently passed away after a brief struggle with cancer. Guice has taught many students in the Kingsport school system, since she taught at several different schools. Likewise, lots of teachers have had the chance to work with her. Both students and teachers have been greatly affected by this loss. 

Guice was raised in Henderson County, North Carolina. She started playing the violin when she was 10 years old and fell in love with music. She studied violin at Eastern Carolina University, Florida State University, the University of South Carolina, and Converse College, where she earned her Bachelor of Arts in Violin Performance in 2010. 

Courtesy of Amy Roberts
A PASSION FOR MUSIC. Guice learned to play the violin at a young age. Her passion for music led her to a career in teaching.

After graduating from Converse, Guice moved to Kingsport to direct the John Sevier Middle School Orchestra. During her time at Sevier, Guice did many things for the students and faculty. 

One of her most impactful programs was the faculty orchestra. She did this to show students that their teachers weren’t so different from them and had to work hard to learn new things, too.

“Sometimes, kids in orchestra get picked on, and I do not take it well,” Guice said in an 2013 interview. “[The] Faculty Orchestra was created to show that anyone can do anything and to give kids the opportunity to see that teachers are just like students.”

Guice made many friends at Sevier, including STEM teacher Jenny McKlveen.

“What a woman of integrity,” McKlveen said. “My most vivid memory is of Ashley rushing into the 7th grade workroom to put a lunch box in the refrigerator. When I asked her what she was having for lunch, she reluctantly told me it was for a student who was very poor. He wanted to belong with the ‘in crowd’ so badly. So, she made sure he had his own lunchbox every day.”

Music and teaching weren’t the only things Guice loved. She also adored animals, including her dogs.

“She was so much fun and had many stories to tell,” administrative assistant Vicky Stoops said. “My best memories of her are all the stories about her dogs. Ashley would go home during the day and check on her dog. He was her baby.”

Guice had a passion for teaching and truly loved and cared for her students. Although she never worked with Guice directly, Sevier nurse Traci Bowen had the chance to hear her play violin at a choir concert.

“She played with a passion for music that was evident to everyone,” Bowen said. “She made a special point to introduce herself to my daughter during a rehearsal and tell her that students like her were the reason she lived. I will be forever grateful to her for instilling that confidence in [my daughter].”

Guice also had a fiery and strong spirit. She taught all three of Amy Roberts’ children, and the two became fast friends.

“She was there for us when we took in our youngest foster child,” Roberts said. “She had a huge fear of enclosed spaces, like elevators. When she couldn’t find the stairs to come see me and the baby at the hospital, she sent my food up in the elevator, cussed me, then got in the elevator to come help me.” 

Hunter Mullins, the current band director at Sevier, knew and worked with Guice. 

“Ashley was a talented violinist and fierce advocate for her students,” he said.

Social studies teacher and journalism adviser David Flanary was also very fond of Guice.

Courtesy of Amy Roberts
GONE, BUT NOT FORGOTTEN. Former orchestra director Ashley Guice had a big impact on the faculty and staff of Sevier.

“Ashley was a good friend and a great person,” he said. “She had such a remarkable capacity for caring about others. Her sense of humor was razor sharp. She did not put up with anybody’s nonsense. Most importantly, I don’t think I’ve ever met anybody who cared about students more than she did. The world seems a little less bright without her in it.”

Guice transferred to Andrew Jackson Elementary to teach general music to young children. Next, she was an interim music teacher in Elizabethton City Schools. Most recently, she taught general music and was choral director at Church Hill Middle School in Hawkins County.  

When she was at Church Hill Middle School, she taught the students a song that she would lead during lunch for birthday celebrations.

“The study body has made the decision to continue this tradition, taking up the mantle if you will, to honor Ms. Guice,” Scott Jones, the principal of Church Hill Elementary, said. “During lunch, the students have engaged each other and are honoring Ms. Guice by singing as loudly as they ever have.” 

Guice’s fondest wish was for everyone to treat each other with respect.

“We are all in this together and if you say one nice thing to someone that you barely know every day, we could really change the atmosphere at school,” Guice said in a 2013 interview. “Cheer each other on in everything. Change our world with your attitude.”

Guice taught for twenty-five years. Her favorite aspect of teaching was her relationship with her students.

“If you do not love teaching with all your heart, do something else,” Guice said. 

She truly loved it with all her heart.

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