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40-year music teacher resigns and retires due to COVID-19

"The arts give people a reason for living,” the teacher said.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla — Support for the arts is one reason a music teacher who's lived around the world chose Duval County as her home.

But this year her 40-year long career comes to an end. She is resigning and retiring this year, not wanting to risk her health by interacting with multiple groups of children during a health crisis. 

“I'm over 60 and I have asthma,” said the teacher who wants to remain anonymous. “And I just don't ... I've got enough saved up that I'm gonna be okay for a few months."

She believes the music will go on. She notes the fact Duval County has an arts magnet school shows music education is valued.

"The arts give people a reason for living,” she said.

Others say music education also gives children a reason to want to go to school.

"From my own experience and from my family’s experience we discovered sometimes being in those music groups gave purpose to being in school,” said musician Cliff Newton.

Newton used to teach brass at Edward Waters College. He now plays the trumpet in a band and teaches private lessons. 

There are now less people in his band. At rehearsals they distance themselves and are trying out new ways to stay safe.

"I've got a trumpet and you just put fabric over and it has a rubber band,” said Newton. “In fact, I'm gonna play with that and see if I can borrow a silk scarf from my wife."

Teachers are getting as creative as possible. A choral director at LaVilla School of the Arts found masks designed specifically for singers.

Teachers know the value of music education. Music engages both hemispheres of our brains at once, according to the Journal of Neuroscience. This engages visual, auditory, and motor skills and helps with memory and problem solving.

Students may not realize that while playing, but the retiring teacher's students did learn something else.

"They said the one thing I taught them was confidence," she said. "Confidence and self-assurance just because they got up on that stage that one time. That's what music does for people. Music does many things for people." 

She set up a donation fund for the teacher who takes her place at her Title 1 school to give them more resources for the job she loved for decades.

"I'm really gonna miss see kids and getting hugs and kisses," she said.

See how Duval County Public Schools' music classes will be different when they return to school during the pandemic.

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