Polk County Itemizer-Observer
By Jolene Guzman
DALLAS — Elementary schools in Dallas, at least for a short while, had music classes back on the schedule in the last few weeks.
They were led by a familiar teacher.
Former elementary music teacher Brian Rebischke spent a week each at Lyle and Oakdale Heights elementary schools teaching students holiday music. Rebischke will also teach classes at Whitworth Elementary School in January.
Teaching renditions of “Frosty the Snowman,” “Jingle Bells” and “Santa Claus is Coming to Town” was for Rebischke more than a way to give students a chance celebrate the holidays in classes before winter break.
“This has been quite a Christmas treat to get to teach my own lesson plans,” he said last week.
Brian Rebischke rehearses Christmas carols with a class at Lyle Elementary School on Dec. 15 as part of a week-long music-in-the-classroom program.
After teaching music for nearly 20 years in Dallas schools, Rebischke’s position was cut — as was all elementary music — as part of the Dallas School District’s budget cuts for the 2010-11 school year.
Rebischke is now a substitute teacher and has worked all but seven school days so far this year. While grateful to have remained busy teaching, the special music classes were the first time Rebischke has been able to teach the subject he knows best.
“I’ve thoroughly enjoyed coming in and singing,” he said.
District officials have said elementary music will be the first item added back to the schedule when funding improves, but when that will happen isn’t certain.
Lyle Elementary School Principal Todd Baughman decided not to wait that long to have the popular teacher back, even if only for a short time.
“We’ve had Brian scheduled for a little over a month,” Baughman said last week.
Baughman said he was working on funding the week of classes — which cost about $1,000 — when two groups stepped in to cover the expense.
Citizens Supporting Dallas Schools (CSDS) had been raising money to support music in elementary schools since just after the Dallas School District announced the program was being eliminated.
The group had raised a little more than $1,500 in support of music in schools. The original goal was $165,000, the cost of the entire program.
Jennie White, a member of CSDS and the parent-teacher group, said the group knew raising enough money to restore the program was a mountain of a task, so it decided to look for other ways to support music in schools that was within its budget.
When Baughman told the school’s teacher-parent group about plans for the classes, CSDS decided to jump in to help alongside Lyle PTC.
White said from that proposal hatched a plan to host Rebischke in all three elementary schools.
“It made me happy to use the funds that Dallas so generously gave to provide some music this year,” White said.
Baughman said the students seem to be enjoying their time in music class.
“It’s wonderful” said Baughman. “It’s like a Christmas gift. The kids have absolutely loved it.”
Rebischke incorporated more than just singing in his short time with students. He teaches about the history of the music they are learning and took time to have each class talk about family holiday traditions. When teaching music, Rebischke doesn’t just go over the words and notes for songs, but works in short lessons on proper singing technique.
“This is a room for your best voices,” he told a Lyle first- and second-grade class on Wednesday, Dec. 15, as they learned songs they would perform for residents at Dallas Retirement Village later that day.
Rebischke, teachers and parents say, has a way of bringing out the best voices in his students.
White, who has two sons in Dallas elementary schools, said she attended a class and Lyle’s all-school sing-along on Friday, Dec. 17. She said having Rebischke back in class has been a treat for students.
“He has so much fun with the kids singing,” White said. “He gets into it and the kids can’t help but get into it, too.”