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Dayton music teacher retiring after 34 years

| Monday, June 9, 2014, 11:30 a.m.
Kathleen Edwards

JoEllen Stockdale is cleaning out her classroom. But this isn't just a simple end-of-the-year purging of books and papers. After 34 years as the music teacher at Dayton Elementary School, Stockdale is retiring.

After graduating from Clarion University in 1980 with degrees in piano, voice and clarinet, Stockdale was hired as a music teacher for Dayton and Templeton elementary schools. When Templeton closed, Stockdale taught at Dayton.

Stockdale has been responsible for teaching kindergarten through sixth grade. She taught general music classes, instrumental lessons, band and chorus. She is particularly proud of her chorus class and its yearly musical. “My kids don't just stand up on risers and sing. We do musicals,” she said.

Stockdale strongly believes in exposing her students to every musical opportunity available. She has received grants from the Armstrong School District Foundation to fund a keyboard lab so students could learn to play piano, and she obtained drums from a grant and support from the Parent Teacher Association.

To Stockdale, music is extremely important, especially when tighter budgets often mean cuts in the arts at schools.

“It's fun,” she said of music classes. “The kids have to have fun, and it teaches math and reading. Music does the whole thing.”

Although her days have been filled with warming up vocal cords, tuning instruments and teaching music theory, Stockdale heads the Dayton Children's Community Choir through her church, Dayton United Methodist.

“Every Monday, after school, the kids walk to the church. We have around sixty kids,” said Stockdale.

The children participate in choir activities and physical and Christian education.

Stockdale loves to give her students experiences they would never forget. Every year, she took her students to see a student-friendly performance of the Pittsburgh Symphony. This year was special to her.

“We got front row seats. They chose one of our second-grade students to go up on stage and conduct the orchestra. We were all in tears,” she said.

Kathleen Edwards is a freelance reporter for Trib Total Media.

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