Jeanne Novacek retires after forty years of teaching music at GMR

After forty years in the music department of the Greenbush-Middle River school, local resident Jeanne Novacek retired from her teaching position on May 31, 2019.

Originally from Cedar Mills, Minn, located nine miles from Hutchinson, Minn., Jeanne (Cogley) Novacek came from a musical family of one boy and eight girls.

Music has always played an important role in her life.

“My favorite time was doing dishes after supper at home and singing in harmony,” she said. “It was really fun!”

“We girls would start singing in the car when we went on short-term trips. Dad would sing tenor and Mom sang alto, so that’s how we sisters learned to harmonize.”

Jeanne and two of her sisters went on to become music teachers; two are music directors in their churches; and two are elementary teachers.

Their brother, who is next to the youngest in the Cogley family, played the drums in a polka band to put himself through college and is an employee of Anderson Windows.

“Last July our youngest sister, Patti, got married. Her brother gave her away and all of us sisters were bridesmaids – we all sang at the wedding!” Jeanne beamed with a smile.

Their father was a self-taught architect and owned a hardware store. Their mother was a homemaker and did the bookwork for the store. In their retirement together they baby sat many children for ten years.

Jeanne attended grades one through six in a two-room school house in Cedar Mills. From seventh through twelfth grade she went to Hutchinson High school, graduating in 1970.

“I went from a class of six to a class of 220!” she laughed.

Since first grade she said she knew she always wanted to be a teacher. “But it was in the ninth grade when I began high school choir I knew I wanted to be a music teacher.

“My choir teacher, George Bergland, was a native of Warroad, Minn. He always gave my sisters and me lessons for free because our parents couldn’t afford them. He really encouraged us to sing whenever or wherever. We still keep in contact with him. It’s pretty cool! He also helped me to get music scholarships to go to college.”

For four years, Novacek attended the College of St. Benedict at St. Joseph, Minn., and also nearby St. John University, graduating in 1978 with a degree in music education.

Jeanne remarked, “The day before graduation (Greenbush School) Superintendent Keith Kapphahn interviewed me in the commons room area at St. Ben’s. We were interrupted so many times by friends who wanted a hug that I thought the interview must have went badly. But, Mr. Kapphahn just sat and smiled through the entire informal interview. The day after I graduated I was hired! Mr. Kapphahn was really a good mentor.”

When Novacek began teaching in Greenbush, she taught kindergarten through grade 12 vocal music. After joining with the Middle River school, her position changed to kindergarten through eighth grade vocal music in two buildings.

“Attendance was small at concerts to begin with but it’s literally a packed house for concerts now. I am just really proud that the communities come to honor their kids’ achievements in music as well as they do for sports events.”

In closing, Novacek commented, “I wouldn’t be able to do my job without the wonderful co-workers I have had in both Greenbush and Middle River. Real friendships were formed and we became a family. I wish the new music teacher well and hope he enjoys the support and love I received.

“One of my students in Middle River came up to me one evening in July and gave me the biggest hug and was so sincere about wishing I was still her teacher. That really touched me.

“I want to thank my husband and my daughters for their patience and support during the times I was away from home to direct concerts and musicals, and playing for Mass.

“I also get a kick out of former students from both Greenbush and Middle River when they introduce me to their families and say I was their music teacher … nice memories!”

Our thanks to Jeanne Novacek for sharing her musical knowledge and teaching skills with her school students for the past four decades. Happy retirement wishes to you!

To see the complete story, read the September 4 issue of The Tribune in print or online.

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