Lions and tigers and a bear named Baloo – and monkeys and birds and other jungle creatures too helped Oakdale Elementary music teacher Wendy Deal end her 35-year teaching career on a high note.
On May 20 and 21, the Oakdale students, under Deal’s direction, presented “The Jungle Book” – the culmination of months of work and rehearsals.
The production, which included participation from all the students in the school, was a final curtain call for Deal, who retired at the end of the school year.
“It was wonderful,” she said. “I wanted something that lots of students could be involved in, something they would enjoy and relate to.” The students started working on the musical in February, learning lines and songs in music class and before and after school.
“The art teacher helped the students make darling hats for the performance,” Deal said. “The kids looked like animals in the jungle – tigers, birds, monkeys – it was really cool.” The physical education teacher taught the children to dance, she added.
Deal, who holds a bachelor’s and master’s degree in music education from Bowling Green State University, taught for a year in her hometown of Cincinnati before being hired by Toledo Public Schools as a music teacher for kindergarten through sixth grade.
She has spent the last 34 years educating generations of Oakdale students in the joys of music.
An active participant in the Oregon Community Theater, Deal is also proud to have inspired young thespians at the elementary level.
We’ve had many performances over the years - we always did `The Nutcracker’ at Christmastime,” she said. “It was wonderful to see the students get bitten by the theater bug.
“In The Jungle Book, I watched the students cast in the major roles just blossom,” she said. “They started out very hesitant and over the weeks, they really grew into their parts.”
As she prepared for her last day at Oakdale, Deal predicted that leaving would be bittersweet. “I have so many wonderful memories,” she said.
“Oakdale is a great school,” she said. “The community is very close.
“Families stay here,” she said. “I’ve taught many students who are children of former students.”
Her own family was a factor in her decision to retire. “I’m looking forward to having more time to spend with my mother who is 91 and lives in Cincinnati, and with my 2-1/2-year-old grandson.”
Reflecting on the many changes she’s seen at Oakdale throughout her career, she says the most notable would have to be construction of the new building, which opened in January 2006. The original building was demolished at the end of the 2003-2004 school year.
“The new building is wonderful, although I do miss the auditorium and the stage in the old building,” she said, adding that in the new building, programs are presented in the gym.
The new technology, including overhead projectors that display Power Point presentations and other materials from a computer screen improve the learning process for the teacher and the student, she said.
“When I put the words to songs on the screen, the students not only learn the song, they practice their reading skills, too,” she said.
“Working with the students is probably what I’ll miss the most,” she said. “But change is good. I wish lots of luck to my successor. He or she will have a wonderful atmosphere to work in.
“But I do live close by,” she said. “I’m sure I’ll be back to visit.”
Oakdale music teacher Wendy Deal ended her 35-year career on a high note, directing students in a production of “The Jungle Book.”