Douglas music teacher says goodbye after 27 years |

Douglas music teacher says goodbye after 27 years

by Linda Hiller

After teaching elementary school music for more than 27 years, Jackie Maye retired three years early Friday.

“This was not an easy decision, but I had to do it for my own sanity,” Maye said. “I’ve made my contribution, but this job has become way too hard.”

Maye, 53, has been a vocal critic of the Douglas County School District since 1996, when the music program was cut back to make way for other fine arts in the elementary schools.

She wore black every April 30 to mourn the anniversary of the heated school board meeting where the decision was made to pilot the program resulting in music teachers having to teach band before school and divide their teaching year between two schools instead of one.

n Just one of those things. Maye, who’d been teaching vocal music only, went along with the new program and reluctantly taught band. Much to her surprise, she found it rewarding.

“In the beginning, I wasn’t too thrilled about it, but I found that even if a child wasn’t able to carry a note while singing, he or she could put down three fingers, blow on an instrument and learn how to play,” she said then. “Plus there was a team spirit in band that you didn’t find in choir.”

But Maye’s overall frustrations eventually out-sang the harmony of her job, so this year she refinanced her home, and for $60,000 bought out her teaching contract.

“Retiring this early wasn’t what I had in mind, but I finally decided I couldn’t continue to teach in Douglas County because it’s not a happy place for teachers to be, at least not for me,” she said. “Besides, there are so many things I am looking forward to doing.”

n Don’t silence voice. Chuck Wayne, who taught pre-1996 elementary school band and now teaches privately, said he hopes Maye’s leaving won’t silence the voice of music’s conscience in the school district.

“In all my 25 years of teaching experience, Jackie Maye is one of the few rare talents that I’ve seen in the area of both music and singing,” Wayne said. “She puts on theatrical productions and is also outspoken. She’s really a gutsy lady – I hate to see her go.”

If the dilution of elementary school music was the low point of her nearly three decades of teaching, Maye said high points were the early concerts at Gardnerville Elementary School, where she began teaching in 1973, with only her accordion to accompany her.

“I loved the earlier concerts where I could use multimedia and the teachers – we would pack them in for the concerts,” she said. “I had my students in class up to four times a week and I could really teach them – I even taught my 6th graders to write songs. I felt so connected to the kids then. Ten years later, I was voted teacher of the year for the district and was runner-up for the state.”

n Clark sings praises. Superintendent Pendery Clark said a fall meeting with music teachers has already resulted in changes for next year.

“Jackie is totally committed to music, and I respect that, but I don’t think our decision in 1996 reflected a lack of support for fine arts, including music,” she said. “We’ll be adding some programs next year. We are listening to our music teachers.”

Clark said she considers Maye an “absolutely wonderful music teacher.”

“She has done such a wonderful job with our kids,” she said. “She is so creative – she incorporates the curriculum into her music program, so the kids not only learn music, they might learn about history, too. I will miss her professionally and personally, but I’m excited for her because she has so much talent that I think this next step will be a wonderful opportunity for her.”

n No, no, pantyhose. Maye lost her mother, Priscilla Geiffert, to cancer Dec. 30. She and her sister Marilyn are planning a musical memorial to her in March in Long Island, N.Y.

Prior to that time, Maye said she is just going to enjoy sleeping in, putting her feet up and not wearing pantyhose.

“This will be my base for at least a year,” she said. “Where I’ll end up, I don’t know. I do think I’ll always be involved with children’s theater because I just think kids are wonderful – they’re so genuine.”

n Nice work if you can get it. Wrapping up her teaching career at Pinon Hills Elementary School has been a sort of Ms. Maye’s Opus this week, she said.

“We’ve been having our concerts and it’s been very emotional,” she said. “I’ve gotten some beautiful letters from the children at both Pinon Hills and Jacks Valley. I am also overwhelmed by the support of the parents and teachers who have come to say goodbye. I’ve taught more than 5,000 kids in this district – I’m now teaching the kids of my first students. I’m proud of what I’ve done over the years and I do care, but it’s time to move on.”

n Teeming with ideas. Maye is far from writing her swan song – she is teeming with post-teaching ideas, including writing more Story Book Theater plays to educate youth about musical theater, writing more plays for 12-step programs to help people live with their addictions through the use of music and theater as therapy, and getting a play produced off-Broadway by the time she is 60.

“My philosophy has always been that you’re only limited by your imagination,” she said. “I have to go out there and try it.”

Besides, she already has the first line to the first song of her first off-Broadway musical.

“Lucky me, I’m only 53,” Maye said.