Mu­sic to teach­ers’ ears

The Cobram Courier - - NEWS - By Lach­lan Durl­ing

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.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Australia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.