Music to teachers’ ears
Jenny and Fred Keenan are an unstoppable teaching duo — they have spent their lives in school and there’s nowhere else they’d rather be.
It all started at Bendigo Teacher’s College in the 1970s where the two met before Jenny headed off to start her teaching career at Cohuna Primary School.
‘‘I was qualified and sentenced for life,’’ Frank laughed.
The pair taught around the district at Cobram Primary School and Yarrawonga P-12, while Jenny also helped out at Cobram and District Specialist School and Katamatite, Katandra and Strathmerton primary schools.
Frank had a small tour too, teaching at St James and Koroop.
‘‘Then we merged when we went to Yarrawonga,’’ he said.
This year, Jenny is celebrating 45 years of teaching, including full-time and CRT roles in schools. But Jenny thinks Frank wouldn’t be too far behind her if you include the different CRT work he’s done through the years.
As dux of Cohuna Secondary College, Jenny said the decision to become a teacher was fairly simple.
‘‘I can still remember as a young girl I had to apply somewhere and there wasn’t a lot of options — either teaching or nursing,’’ she said.
‘‘I loved school and I loved learning things. Being a teacher I was still learning, too — I had my librarianship and studied to become a LOTE teacher.’’
After teaching at Cohuna she headed off to Yarrawonga via Tungamah. But it was an 18-month break which gave her a new lease on her career.
In 2001 Jenny and Fred took a year off and travelled overseas, something Fred said was one of the best ideas they ever had.
‘‘Teaching year after year can get a bit exhausting. To take that year off was great because we came bowling back into the school,’’ he said.
The pair then had a brief stint at Cobram Secondary College before they made the move to Yarrawonga, with Jenny travelling around to help schools one day a week with music classes.
Under the guidance of Brian Cooper at Yarrawonga P-12, they became music specialists while sharing a class.
Eventually they had a class each, but they still kept the music program running.
Jenny then took budding thespians under her wings, writing the yearly musicals for the schools.
‘‘The thing that kept us going was that we were teaching music. It allows the kids to work on such a broad range of things,’’ Jenny said.
‘‘Then we started conducting musicals at different schools. I wrote them myself — mainly to save money, but it also meant you could write in roles for a student.
‘‘The pre-written plays suited some imaginary class out there, but I could adapt mine to what students were able to do and it meant everyone got to be a part of the show.
‘‘The show would evolve throughout the year as students said they wanted more of a role or more students came on board.
‘‘Some of the best things were the parts the kids had come up with.’’
Jenny also wrote the current school song for Yarrawonga P-12, adding in a verse recently to farewell the old school building as the facilities were upgraded.
She said she was grateful for all of the support she had received from everyone, including in her musical conquests.
‘‘Anthony Tenace turned up when we were writing the song for Yarrawonga and did a hell of a job,’’ she said.
‘‘He did the backing music, there were hundreds of calls back and forth until we found a sound that suited and then he came and recorded a CD in two days.’’
Frank was thrilled by another aspect of the project.
‘‘We even got the staff to sing,’’ he said.
This year Jenny has been working at Yarrawonga P-12, but she helped out at Strathmerton Primary School and Cobram and District Specialist School last year.
Jenny and Frank agree it is the students who fuel their passion for what they do.
‘‘We’ve been lucky. Our work has been frustrating at times, but it is so rewarding because there are so many kids out there that love music classes,’’ Jenny said.
‘‘You also end up teaching with some of your ex-students or even teaching their kids. That’s the great thing about being in town for so long.
‘‘They always say ‘old teachers never die, they just lose their class’.’’
❝We’ve been lucky. Our work has been frustrating at times, but it is so rewarding because there are so many kids out there that love music classes.❞ Jenny Keenan
Teachers for life: Fred and Jenny Keenan have a combined 90 years’ experience in education.