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Brownsville Teacher Brought Songs to Students Hearts for 38 Years Kitsap Sun
With an energy level over and above that of her thirdgrade students, teacher Shirley Jenkins flits around the music room at Brownsville Elementary, striking her tall conga drum to keep the beat and then dancing in a circle of students shaking maracas.One, two, three and four, she counts over the staccato sound of the maracas and the deep beats of the drums. Annnddd stop, Jenkins says, as 23 pairs of hands fall mostly silent.Its a dreary, damp Friday outside, but inside Brownsvilles music room Jenkins mood couldnt be brighter.For nearly 40 years 18 at Brownsville she has shared her love of music with students. With the air of an eternal optimist, Jenkins said the best part of teaching is that every day is a new experience. Its full of surprises.At 68, she plans to retire at the end of this school year. Its clear she will miss her daily interaction with students, and they will miss her too.Mrs. Jenkins is one of the nicest teachers Ive ever had, said 9yearold Symantha Thurlow. If you get in trouble shell just let you sit out, she wont keep you in detention or make you sit out for recess. She always sees the best in people.Thurlows favorite part of Jenkins class is playing new instruments and her favorite song is Puff the Magic Dragon. We sing that all the time. Its a real fun song, she said.Growing up on Bainbridge Island, where she still lives on her family homestead, Jenkins remembers always loving and playing music, especially jazz. I love its creativity, she said.When she graduated from high school women were given two career choices: teaching or nursing. I wanted a way to do the thing I loved, she said, so she chose teaching. Jenkins attended Pacific Lutheran University in Tacoma.She taught in Seattle for 10 years and then moved over to Kitsap County, teaching for five years at Tracyton Elementary and five years at Seabeck Elementary before landing at Brownsville.In nearly four decades of teaching, Jenkins has watched many things in education change.She celebrates the inclusion of allday kindergarteners. This is Brownsvilles second year for allday kindergarten and Jenkins is amazed at what the youngsters can do. Years ago, kindergarteners would learn easy songs during music class, but today they are learning rhythm patterns, identifying notes and reading music.Those kids are like sponges, she said. Were teaching them to do a whole bunch more now. Weve recognized that kids are capable of doing so much and we need to let them go as far and as fast as they possibly can.By far, Jenkins favorite memories involve singing on the ferry. Its a tradition that the Brownsville chorus members make an annual trek to Seattle toward the end of the school year.The students perform on the ferry coming and going, attracting quite a crowd. This year the students repertoire included jazz tunes and spirituals and Lean On Me. Jenkins said she loves watching the ferry riders react to the kids voices. Sometimes the power of that moment is just electric. I love that.