Education Feature: Teacher marches to music’s beat

CNJ staff photo: Andy DeLisle Janet Barnard, a music teacher at the Arts Academy at Bella Vista, sits next to third-grader Jordan Castillo while she plays an instrument. Barnard is retiring after 27 years of teaching at Clovis elementary schools.

By Wren Abbott: CNJ Correspondent

Long before research demonstrated the “Mozart effect” — the relationship between exposure to music and academic success — Janet Barnard was developing ways to use music as a learning tool.

“It’s kind of strange, but I just always believed in that idea, that you could teach social studies and language arts through music,” said Barnard, a music teacher at the Arts Academy at Bella Vista wrapping up her last of 27 years teaching at elementary schools in the Clovis municipal school district.

“It was really exciting in the ’90s when they started to do research and found out how important music was to develop children’s other intelligences,” she said.

Barnard began creating music lessons based on children’s literature and social studies units during her 20 years of teaching at James Bickley Elementary School. When the Lincoln-Jackson Arts Academy opened in 2001, it was the perfect opportunity for Barnard to implement the concepts she had been developing.

“I was three years away from retirement and many people said to me, ‘Why don’t you want to stay in your comfort zone and teach out your last three years?’ And I said, ‘It’s something I believe in, I have to do this.’”

Lincoln-Jackson and Bella Vista were consolidated into one school this year. Teachers and parents who were at Bella Vista before it became an arts academy and experienced the transition cite dramatic changes in the students’ enthusiasm and achievement over the past year.

“Right around October, I really started seeing some differences within my own class. They weren’t just sitting there wide-eyed; they were beginning to ask questions that went in to the academic world, relating to the music world,” said Kim Hale, a fellow Bella Vista music teacher. “It was wonderful that they were learning to think, not just get the facts.”

Hale worked closely with Barnard in creating this spring’s opera, “The Snow Queen,” carrying on the annual tradition started at Lincoln-Jackson Arts Academy. More than 200 students performed in the adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen story by the same name.

“Many of the classes studied Hans Christian Andersen, his life, where he lived, so they get a really big picture about what they’re performing,” Barnard said.

“Mrs. Barnard taught me how to go up in high pitch. She taught me how to breathe correctly. She taught us how to play the instruments — the drum, the tambourine, the maracas, the piano, the mallets,” said fourth-grader Amanda Myers, who played Gerda.
“Mrs. Barnard is so much fun, everybody’s going to miss her. She believes in us and she knows we can do anything.”

Barnard is not giving up teaching all together. She will continue teaching music at Eastern New Mexico University and a class for toddlers and their parents at Clovis Community College. She also plans to speak about arts integration at seminars around the country.

“I’m not leaving the whole scene,” Barnard said. “I’m just going to be working at it from a different direction.”

Her husband, Jim, a band director at Clovis High School, is also retiring at the end of this year.