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Davis Journal

Choir teacher loves to connect with her students

Mar 05, 2021 03:44PM ● By Becky Ginos

BOUNTIFUL—When Alyssa Jenks started in the fall as the new choir director at Mueller Park Junior High, she didn’t know how unconventional her first experience teaching would be. Now after holding virtual concerts and navigating masks, she’s gotten into a rhythm.

“Being a new teacher without a background in education during a worldwide pandemic was pretty intense,” Jenks said. “I think the hybrid schedule helped me settle in a bit. Some of my choir classes started out with only eight students and a total of 20. Now classes have 50 to 60 students. I’m proud of the growth of my program.”

Her musical talent comes naturally. “I’ve been singing since I was 4 years old and playing the piano. I’ve been in choirs myself and loved it.”

She graduated in voice performance at the University of Utah and sang in operas and internationally in Europe. “I was looking for a job where I could still use my music,” said Jenks. “Education was not my background at all but some friends were associated with the Davis District and they knew I was singing. There was a job opening so I went and interviewed and got it. I’ve had to learn and experiment but it’s been so fun teaching.”

Shortly after the school went to full capacity, Jenks said it didn’t affect her students much. “We had a virtual concert and I had them come dressed up to make it seem as normal as I could so they could have the choir experience.”

Wearing masks hasn’t been a real problem either, she said. “Being a singer myself I was very concerned. It’s obviously difficult to sing with a mask on. I thought, ‘wow this could really be hard.’”

Jenks said she decided not to focus on that. “I tried not to make it a big deal. I had them focus on the positivity of what a choir can be. Instead of talking about how hard things are, I encouraged them to make connections so they don’t have to think ‘I can’t breathe with a mask on’ and look at them as a normal thing until we can take those off.”

She got creative with the situation when she was in the process of getting her Christmas program together. “I actually had a thought in the middle of the night,” Jenks said. “It was not unusual for me to be awake because everything was so stressful then I was awake all the time.”

Jenks wrote her ideas down. “I thought we could do something about COVID to the Twelve Days of Christmas and have everybody doing actions and turn a difficult situation into something fun,” she said. “I told the kids that COVID was nothing to laugh about but they could make fun of the ways it’s affected them in their educational journey.”

So they came up with things like wearing masks, staying six feet apart and Zoom meetings. “I put most of it together,” she said. “But I have to give credit to my littles, we worked on it together. They were so excited.”

Jenks tries to pick a variety of songs for choir that the kids can connect with. “I try to have songs that are more learning pieces about composers, etc. But then I give them stuff they’ve heard before and can relate to. Everything to me is about relationships and how I can connect with my kiddos.”

Although her first year of teaching was unconventional, Jenks feels like she’s settling in. “It was a bumpy start, but now I feel like Mueller Park is home. It’s been a cool thing to experience.”