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Thursday, June 30, 2016

With a song in her heart

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Jill Johnson has a love for music and it shows.

For the past 20 years she has been the elementary music teacher for the Storm Lake School district, spreading her time between the four buildings.

"I want them to love music so much that they'll always have it in their life," she commented, "no matter how old they get and whether it's singing in high school or college or singing in the shower."

She hasn't minded her crazy schedule - hauling her materials from building to building and allowing extra time to clean up and pack up her belongings to take to the next location but she is sure looking forward to the new elementary building and having her own music room where the materials will be housed.

"I am so excited that we will be able to keep all the instruments together. We'll have enough for every kid to play and we won't have to take turns. The possibilities will be endless and we will be able to do a lot more interesting things."

She added that the district has always supported the music programs - from elementary through high school - and has always provided good equipment and materials. She can't help but be pleased with the music instruction her own daughter, Amy, received in the school district - from band to chorus to orchestra - which guided her into her own music teaching career. She teaches at a fine arts middle school in Las Vegas, where students audition to attend.

"I don't know if the kids here know how lucky they are to have band, choir and orchestra available to them," she said, complimenting the teachers in each of those areas.

When she began working in the district, she taught music to students from kindergarten through third grade. With the increase in numbers, she know teaches first through third (which is about 400 students) and Barb Lange teaches kindergarten.

The interest in music begins in the younger years - when Johnson and kindergarten music teacher Barb Lange have them.

"I can't think of any kid that doesn't like music," she said. "I try to make it fun for them. That makes a difference."

The young students are exposed to a variety of music - from the old favorites to cultural music to music of different eras. And there is instruction; the first through third graders learn to read music. They also learn to play instruments.

The music programs give the students the opportunity to share what they have learned. Speaking parts are given to many of the students and that is important, Johnson says. Speaking at the microphone in front of a crowd gives them confidence that carries on into activities they may be involved in as they grow. One of the highlights of being in Johnson's music class is the third grade plays held during the concerts; the younger students look forward to their debut and often the chance to dress in costumes (and occasionally, like in December the chance to wear face paint.)

"I always make everyone feel like they did a good job." That is also important, she said. She respects her students and they inturn respect her.

Johnson always wanted to be a teacher but did not discover the love of music until later in school. She graduated from Buena Vista University where she met her husband, Bill. She taught K-12 music at Schaller-Crestland for three years and k-6 music at Sac City for 10 years prior to coming to Storm Lake.

She truly enjoys her job.

"I love my job. It's such a wonderful job. I don't think I've ever had a bad day," she concluded. "It's nice to work in a place where we are so supported."

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