New music, dance teachers excited about school year

Published 7:00 pm Monday, August 13, 2018

With the start of the school year, teachers Janet Sims and Elizabeth Ogle are taking on new assignments at Sherman Avenue Elementary School.

Sims is the school’s music teacher, who will also teach piano to students interested in learning the instrument. Ogle, will teach dance in special classes.

Email newsletter signup

Sign up for The Vicksburg Post's free newsletters

Check which newsletters you would like to receive
  • Vicksburg News: Sent daily at 5 am
  • Vicksburg Sports: Sent daily at 10 am
  • Vicksburg Living: Sent on 15th of each month

A native of Chicago, Illinois, Sims came to Mississippi at 14 when her parents decided to return to Mississippi and moved to Roxie.

A graduate of Alcorn State with a degree in music education, she first came to Vicksburg while she was a student, when her ROTC instructor invited her to his church, Mount Carmel Baptist Church, to play, “And I’ve been in Vicksburg ever since at Mount Carmel.”

Playing the piano, she said, was by choice. “I’ve always wanted to play the piano since I was 6 or 7,” she said.

A Vicksburg native, Ogle has a degree in music with a minor on blues studies from Delta State University.

“I started taking dancing at age 3 from Debra Franco School of Dance, but when I got into high school, it was difficult to balance school with dance,” she said.

“I became involved in sports and dance, and in band, and in band I started doing color guard and teaching color guard, so my dance experience from high school on has been what I’ve been able to export from color guard.

Both say teaching in the lower elementary grades of pre-kindergarten through second grade is a new experience for them.

Music is fun

Sims started teaching 2005 in the sixth grade at Warren Central Intermediate School, then to teach music at Vicksburg Junior High School, and later at the Academy of Innovation teaching choir.

“I like music education because it’s fun. It’s a fun way to learn many things. You can incorporate the core classes and make songs about them you can dance about them; it’s an easy way for students to remember them, because they can remember all the songs on the radio. So why not incorporate that in the classroom.

“It’s a good way to express yourself; a positive way,” she said.

And while she will teach music to all grades, Sims will be teaching piano to a select group of students.

“At Sherman, piano will be by choice,” she said. “The children who want to learn piano will learn piano, and we will have that first thing in the morning from 7:30 to 8. The other students will be general music classes and come in the afternoon. We’ll do some singing, learn some notes and general music theory. We’re all going to sing.”

The difference between her time in junior high school and the Academy of Innovation, Sims said, is there will be much more movement with the younger children.

“They have to move; the older ones can stand still or rock side to side, but the other ones, I’m going to incorporate that. It’s going to be an interesting year. I’m very excited about it.”

Perfect opportunity

After getting her degree, Ogle was a substitute teacher in the Vicksburg Warren School District. She later taught fourth grade at Porter’s Chapel Academy for six months and in 2017 did an internship at Walt Disney World.

Although she did not actively take dance in high school, she said, “I never really got out of it. When I was teaching music, and really involved in teaching music. I was teaching more of the movement side related to music. I taught color guards throughout the state.”

The chance to teach at Sherman Avenue, Ogle said, “Was just perfect opportunity” to teach dance to younger children.

“It’s going to be different. The majority of the kids I taught movement have been older. When I was working with band, I was working with sixth- through 12th-graders, mainly high schoolers; so it’s going to be really different to see how they respond to it, but kids of this age are so receptive of anything,” Ogle said.

“They are so excited to be in class and not reluctant to learn like older kids are, so they’re going to want to give so much to you, and they’re going to be there, they’re going to want to work.”

Like Sims’ piano class, the students will sign up for dance class and take the class instead of taking physical education.

“They’ll learn cross cultures; learn dances from Mexico, Africa, Russian, India China, and we’ll look at dances that are rooted in African American cultures and dance in the U.S.,” Ogle said. “They’ll learn hip hop dances and some ballet technique.”

Sims and Ogle said their programs will also incorporate elements from the regular classes the children take during the school day.

“In music, there are quite a few songs I will use to teach diff math skills and learn multiplication, for language, print the words to the songs and have the students read them to help work in their reading and got into vowels and word, phonics,” Sims said. “Music incorporates a lot of core subjects.”

More than dance

Ogle said the children in dance will study different cultures, do worksheets, read words related to dance terminology, and the older students will have to keep reflective journal about the dances, while the younger ones will draw pictures and discuss what they’ve learned.

“It will build language skills, tell stories and interpret things in dance; we’ll study the science of movement. It will reinforce what they’ve learned in the class.

“I’m ready to go and teach; I think we both are,” Ogle said. “It’s a unique opportunity for both of us, and it’s something different and something I know I’m really excited about and I’m excited to see how it helps the kids to learn a skill.”

About John Surratt

John Surratt is a graduate of Louisiana State University with a degree in general studies. He has worked as an editor, reporter and photographer for newspapers in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post staff since 2011 and covers city government. He and his wife attend St. Paul Catholic Church and he is a member of the Port City Kiwanis Club.

email author More by John