The music plays on at Holy Rosary School

By Jeff Kurowski | The Compass | January 23, 2015

KEWAUNEE — Jen Heidel was thankful as a parent that a commitment was made last June to keep Holy Rosary School open, but she knew that some cuts were necessary due to finances. Hiring a music teacher was not an option, so she stepped forward to share her gifts.

Jen Heidel returned to the classroom to use her talents and experience as a volunteer music teacher at Holy Rosary School in Kewaunee. (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)
Jen Heidel returned to the classroom to use her talents and experience as a volunteer music teacher at Holy Rosary School in Kewaunee. (Jeff Kurowski | The Compass)

“Music is really important. It’s not an extracurricular,” said Heidel, a graduate of the University of Wisconsin with a degree in music education with an instrumental emphasis. “It’s not tested, but it is academic. It’s not like we just come in here and sing. We learn a lot. There are standards and benchmarks that I teach to and it also supports other curriculums. I think it hurts the rest of the academics when you take it out of the picture.”

Heidel previously taught in Sheboygan where she served as the elementary and middle school band instructor. Two years ago, she taught general music and band lessons at St. Mary School, Algoma. Heidel decided to leave teaching when she was expecting her third child, Henry, now 18 months. Her oldest son, Isaac, is a first grader at Holy Rosary, spurring her return to the classroom.

“I really wanted my son to have music and it was such a small teaching gig, two hours, two times a week,” she said.

Support from another Holy Rosary family allowed Heidel to become a volunteer teacher. Gert Gerold, a grandmother of Holy Rosary students and a licensed daycare provider, offered child care at no cost. Gerold wanted her grandchildren to have music class.

“It was very cool how people came together,” said Heidel, who also has a four-year-old daughter, Ella. “If I had to pay for daycare this may be something we couldn’t do. It works for now. It works for our family. Hopefully, the school will grow more and we can bring in the art teacher and pay other part-time teachers.”

Heidel teaches general music to K-2, 3-4 and 5-8 class splits. She focuses on standards, including singing, composition, music theory, playing instruments and notating.
“I’m teaching different grade levels at the same time, so that’s interesting,” she said.

“Some kids really like to sing and some don’t. Some take band or have a piano background, so that makes it easier because they know a lot more about music. I want to build this program. If you stop music at a school, it’s going to be hard to get music in (again). If you keep it instilled, then you can build.

“If I had all the time in the world and didn’t have kids, I would break up the classes even more and stay here longer. I’m doing what I can. I’m making the best of the situation. We have outdated textbooks, but there’s some good stuff in them. I have guitars, keyboards and xylophones, which the kids call glockenspiels. It would be nice to replace some, but we are doing the best with what we have.”

Heidel enjoys incorporating movement and experimenting with instruments. She has been impressed with the response by the students, including the middle school boys.

“A lot of the middle school kids, especially boys, can be shy and don’t like to sing,” she explained. “This group of boys is so open to singing, and I love the fact that they are so open-minded. They just give it their all. It’s not like that everywhere you go.”

Heidel also wants her students to learn how music is written. Why does a song make them feel a certain way?

“Kids connect and feel emotions through music,” she said. “Why is that? It’s important to understand it.”

Heidel, who moved to Kewaunee five and a half years ago to accommodate her husband Daniel’s new job, is thankful for the faculty and staff at Holy Rosary.

“There is not much turnover,” she said. “There has to be something about the school; the fact that people want to fight for the school and work here. It’s good to be a part of that experience. We will see what happens next year.

“I was so happy for this opportunity. The kids really excel. They interact with each other. You don’t see eighth graders paying attention to the kindergartners at a lot of schools. Everybody knows everyone else. It’s like a big family.”

Related Posts

Scroll to Top