SELINSGROVE — Music teacher Kathy Bartol has hit all the right notes in her 35-year teaching career in the Selinsgrove Area School District. Now she is retiring.
“I’ll miss the students, but not the stress,” she said recently.
Bartol, who hails from York, started teaching at the elementary school level in the Selinsgrove School District. There, she specialized in helping kids learn to read music as if it were a language.
“This is the only school district I’ve ever worked in,” she said. “But I’ve also done performing out of the area. Part of my personality is, I need to move forward. I am a life-long learner and do different things and expand my knowledge. I think after teaching at all the levels, I pretty much have a handle on music education.”
While Bartol always wanted to teach music out of college, she also had aspirations to perform.
“But teaching music, especially at the high school level,” she said, “is all encompassing, and when you have your own family on top of that you don’t have time to do anything else.”
Bartol gave up her dream of performing. But there was always the enormous love of teaching.
“The level of a student’s advancement was what was interesting to me throughout my career,” she said. “I was fortunate to teach different grade levels and see all the levels of advancement. Some students I taught privately. The fact that I always wanted to take a stab at performing but never quite made that jump, made me push my students to go for it, to live their dream. “Some of the members of (the rock band) Breaking Benjamin I taught, and I taught Elizabeth Deshong, a famous opera singer, who has been all over the world. I taught her in middle school and the high school.”
Bartol made it a personal mission to instill confidence in all of her students.
“Some students would come to me with absolutely no self-confidence and I would keep trying to tell them, ‘stick with it,’ ” she said. “ ‘Study with me. You will bloom into a big flower, and when I see that, you’ll hear it, I’ll hear it, and everyone will hear it. But you have to give yourself a chance to work at technique.’ ” Through the years, she has seen amazing personal changes. “All of a sudden you hear this gorgeous voice coming from someone,” she said, “and you think, they did it. If they get the solo, they come back strong, like a new person, with a new attitude: ‘I’m not going to be put down by other kids. I feel great about myself I can do this now.’ And that attitude carries through in their lives.”
‘Need to move on’
Years after graduation, students have come back to Selinsgrove High and told Bartol how much confidence they got from the program, and how it changed their life, even if they went on to do something completely different.
“If they get confidence here,” she said, “it helps them move forward in everything.”
Then, why is she retiring?
“I’m always excited about kids and music,” she confessed. “That will never change. But I need to move on. This has taken up my entire life. Because not only have I been spending timeon the job but a lot of my life has been spent ironing out administrative issues and saving the program. There has been stress that way. I think it is time to stop all of that. Plus, I have performance opportunities coming in my direction and I need to do that now. I am in an Earth, Wind and Fire tribute band in Harrisburg.”
Bartol also writes songs, and said the only time she was really able to write really good songs was when she took a half year sabbatical for her masters and there wasn’t all the noise and craziness that goes with this job, she said.
“I want a chance to do all that before I fall over,” she said with a huge smile.
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