COVID-19 precautions instrumental in new music teacher’s approach to lesson plans

Tue, 10/06/2020 - 10:15am

One of the first lessons learned by music teachers this fall is how to teach in the COVID-19 era. Maine’s public schools returned to in-person instruction this fall with a series of health precautions. Nancy Cole is entering her 20th year teaching elementary music, but it will be her first in Boothbay Harbor. 

The pandemic resulted in cancelling school band and musical chorus classes. So the new school year is different for returning students and Cole, who has taught elementary music in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and South Carolina. Cole and her husband, Brett Cole, wanted to move back to their northeastern roots, so they left South Carolina after living in the Palmetto State for 15 years.

Cole replaces longtime teacher Genie O’Connell, who retired after last year. Cole’s curriculum includes classroom singing along with lessons including all the musical elements. She uses an online textbook during her four classes per day. “ I teach beat, meter, rhythm, duration and pitch. Plus, all the styles of musical instruments, families of orchestras, and periods of music from Baroque to classical.”

Cole is looking forward to doing a musical this year if the health crisis subsides. “If it’s allowed at some point, I’d like to do one,” she said.

Cole’s passion for music began as a youth. Cole and her sisters regularly sang at several community events. The sisters also all took piano lessons. “Teaching music was something I wanted to do at an early age. I just love teaching music. I think it keeps me young.”

Cole, a Pennsylvania native, graduated from Wyoming Area Secondary School in Exeter, Pennsylvania. She studied kindergarten through grade 12 music education at Mansfield College in Ohio. The Coles married in 1991 and moved to Columbus, Ohio where she taught elementary music for 10 years. The couple made subsequent moves to Athens, Pennsylvania, Quantico, Virginia and Charleston, South Carolina before moving to Gardiner this year. “My husband is a retired federal employee and we were looking to move back to the northeast,” she said. “And we just love living in Maine.”

The coronavirus has changed how Cole and her peers teach their students. Cole is implementing new lesson plans for abiding by social distancing constraints. “Students were in small groups with a lot of hands-on teaching, but that has changed. So I’ve been more creative in teaching this year,” she said. 

Cole appreciates working with her Boothbay Region Elementary School Allied Arts staff. “They have been very helpful. They are kind and made me feel comfortable in a new school,” she said.