Sandra Poole enjoyed sharing her love of music with students
Mrs. Poole reflects on her career and the legacy she leaves behind at MacLeod Elementary School
August 28, 2023, 10:26 am
When students and teachers are back at MacLeod School next week, for the first time in more than two decades, Sandra Poole won’t be among them.
Mrs. Poole, the music teacher at MacLeod Elementary School for 22 years, has decided to retire after the past few years brought fewer hours with kids in the music classroom.
Interest in music began early
Growing up, Mrs. Poole knew she was always going to become a teacher, and found her calling was music after briefly being part of a choir in grade four.
“I always knew I was going to be a teacher. I have three little sisters and I always bossed them around to do schoolwork. We moved around a lot because my dad was a banker, and in grade four I joined a choir. It was only for a month but I thought ‘Wow, this is awesome!’ Then we moved again and I didn’t find another music program until high school.
“I was in an amazing choir and knew I wanted to be a choir director, an English teacher and do drama. I always knew I wanted to teach. I just didn’t know what I wanted to teach until my high school choir director really inspired me. At university, I did my first elementary music course and thought ‘this is where I belong with the xylophones, recorders and drumming.’
Mrs. Poole’s students over the years enjoyed prepping for Christmas concerts.
She began her career in Virden.
“My first job was in Virden. I was a music teacher for three schools in Virden and Oak Lake. I started the choral program in Virden and offered it as a credit because I knew that would be a drawing card for students. I did that for eight years then moved to Moosomin. I walked into the superintendent’s office at the time at the Moosomin School Division and said, ‘I am a music teacher for Elementary School. Can you use me?’ He said they would call me.
“There was nothing at the time, no music program. When my son, Trevor, was in grade one in 2000, I volunteered as an elementary school music teacher for grade one. I volunteered my time for the whole year. The principal at the time, Mrs. Nelson, told me that somebody was retiring and they had a half time position open and that I should apply and do music.
“Now, it has been 22 years I’ve been doing that.”
Sharing the joy of music
Mrs. Poole recalls many wonderful moments teaching and enjoyed sharing music with all of her students.
“It started off as me wanting my children to have a music education and everybody in their classes as well, and it has worked even better than that, with many more students learning music. It worked out well. It has been wonderful. I have had so many wonderful moments with all my students.
“Music just makes me so happy and joyous and I want to share that with kids. The first day in Trevor’s class they didn’t sing they just clapped after I sang because they thought it was a concert. They didn’t think they needed to take part. Now, 22 years later I am leaving the school and all the kids sing.”
Mrs. Poole said she believes music can spark an interest in anyone.
“Music is so healthy, and it’s good for students to learn different things. Math and English classes may not be everybody’s cup of tea, but usually you can find something you like in music.”
Music program cut back
Mrs. Poole says last year was the first year she noticed that music was being cut back so much.
“I taught only music in Moosomin until 2006 when we amalgamated into Southeast Cornerstone. After that I had to teach social studies, arts, drama, visual arts, and science. This last year was the first year that music was being cut back so much and I was only seeing kids once a week for music. I know we had some teacher cutbacks this last year and we don’t have as many music educators in our school division. When we amalgamated in 2006 I thought that would be good where everyone across the board would have the same opportunities, but it isn’t really like that. Weyburn has a really strong music program and music in Moosomin isn’t happening anymore.
“I am happy to be retiring, but if someone was to come in and teach the music program I would be really happy to see it continue.”
Music helps with learning
Mrs. Poole believes learning to play musical instruments helps kids feel better and helps their brains develop in different ways.
“I have seen kids come into the classroom who might be having a bad day and all of sudden you start singing and all of a sudden things are better, or you give them a xylophone and things are better. It is good for your brain. There are lots of people, the people who study music, who say it is the left brain-right brain that combine together. It helps with your studies. My eldest went through to be a doctor and in his class of 110 kids, most of them had music training. At school we are always doing clapping patterns crossing the middle line and kids who have not had music find that really difficult. Clapping patterns help wire your brain, to help you read and gain a better perspective to help with when studying. We do lots of clapping patterns in elementary and they are really good for kids’ development.”
Mrs. Poole is retiring after 30 years of teaching with music education being by far her favourite.
“I have taught in Moosomin for 22 years and in Virden for 8, in total I have taught for 30 years. It goes by so fast when you love what you do. I was thinking of teaching one more year if I could have kept teaching music, but it was my time now to retire. I was just really hoping somebody would come up and teach the music program in Moosomin after me. Olivia Kelly of Rocanville just graduated from Brandon University with a music education degree and she is going to be employed as an Elementary music educator in Winnipeg this year. I thought maybe one day she would come here. She was a singing student of mine for 18 years.”
A memory that stands out to Mrs. Poole is performing at a teacher conference in Regina with her elementary students in 2006. “When my kids were both in elementary school in 2006, I took 59 kids from grades 3 to 6 to Regina and taught them a stick dance, a cool xylophone piece, and singing to perform at a teacher conference of 500 teachers at the Conexus Centre. David Bouchard is an author from Regina who wrote a book called “If You’re Not from the Prairie” and we showcased the book through song and it was really cool.”
Achievements she is proud of are concerts held at the school, little performances, and having both girls and boys sing.
“My proudest achievements are the little shows we put on at school. The little shows like Joust we put on in 2022 with the grade fours and fives and my proudest achievements are having both the girls and the guys there singing. I have put on a lot of shows and some of the boys that were in my first shows are now teaching in schools themselves. I am also proud of my recorder program, Recorder Karate. I am proud of the many Christmas concerts I have put on at the school for the kids. My biggest joy was Intery-Mintery (Halloween performance) and the Remembrance Day program. I am proud of how all the kids have grown from the beginning and what they can achieve.”
Mrs. Poole is a member of the Manitoba Orff Chapter and two of her students participated in the Cross-Canada Virtual Orff Ensemble in 2022.
“I am a member of the Manitoba Orff Chapter, which is an approach to teaching children, and it is like dance, recorder, singing, xylophones, and speech. Almost every year I have taken some grade fives to Brandon to a children’s conference where it is a whole day of dance, drumming and singing. Then, when we come back we teach them what we have learned. I have taken some groups to Winnipeg and Brandon wondering if our program would be strong and it is, all of my students felt more than comfortable performing in either place.
“Last year, all throughout Canada they had a wonderful lady, Sherryl Sewepagaham, an Orff instructor (music teacher) in Edmonton and she is Cree. She wrote a song called Kahkiyaw Oskayak—in English, All the Young People. It was a cross-Canada virtual Orff Ensemble where every school was allowed two students to perform and they put it all together. It was amazing. Two of my students, Reise Wushke and Olivia Brooks, performed on behalf of our school. We got to play the alto recorders. We practiced then recorded the girls playing their part and then uploaded it to Winnipeg where they put it all together for an Orff music conference. The video harmonized kids across Canada singing together and our kids played the recorder, but at the end they had to learn the Cree song to learn how to sing it and it was so cool.
“Then, Mrs. Cole played the performance at the end of the year for the whole school and at the end of the production all of the schools and towns are listed. Moosomin was the only Saskatchewan town in all of the production. It was a lot of work, but so fun and the kids were so proud of themselves watching it.”
Will miss her students
Mrs. Poole says she will miss the kids.
“I will miss the kids the most. I will miss their happy faces, I will miss them coming through the door singing to me. I had some little grade ones every day last year come in and say hi to me. I love working with groups of kids and creating music with them and seeing where they go. Just seeing the kids playing patterns, playing recorder and learning musical instruments. During Covid we used a green screen as a backdrop and put together a show for our Christmas concert by videoing, and I edited it on Adobe. It was wonderfully fun, but a lot of work, but the kids got to see themselves perform. It was great fun.”
Staying involved in music
Poole would like to continue providing musical education to kids who are interested and love it as much as she does.
“I have lots of dreams. I would like to do a little group of kids to get together and do a musical together. I will continue doing the Creative Vision productions with Mrs. Meredith with all ages ranging from seven to 90 because 90-year-olds can sing, too. If you do sports there will be a time that you will have to stop, but you don’t have to for music or singing. We have a choir of about 30 adults and I will continue to keep singing. I thought I could offer recorders to kids still because the grade threes going into grade four this fall are not happy they won’t have Recorder Karate, but maybe I can offer a program after school where I can offer that for a little bit. I will keep busy.”
Music education needed
“I am very thankful that I got to teach at least one class of music every day throughout my career,” says Mrs. Poole. “That is a blessing. I really hope that our government sees a need for music education in our school system again because it is still thriving in Manitoba. Music should be a right, not a privilege, for every child.” Tweet