Yale University's School of Music has come to a conclusion that many who are familiar with Jason Flaks would certainly agree with -- he's a heck of a middle school music instructor.
Flaks, who finished his 15th year at Geneva Middle School last week, has an exciting start to his summer planned for next Thursday through Sunday. He'll be one of 50 music educators from throughout the country chosen to participate in Yale's Summer Symposium.
It's a crowning glory of sorts for a music instructor who came back to teach youngsters after a year leave of absence to tour with his band early in his career.
"After six years (of teaching), I was at a point where I was very frustrated as a teacher and was questioning whether I should stay in education," Flaks said.
"I really struggled the first several years to learn how to draw out thoughtful musical interpretation from kids," Flaks added. "I think my class was a lot of fun for kids, but I'm not sure how meaningful their take-away was from it."
Flaks said he knew what the kids should learn, but he didn't understand how "intentional you have to be to get them to learn it." Being away for that year made him realize how much he missed developing young musicians.
To make Yale sit up and pay attention, Flaks had to complete a written portion of the evaluation and submit videos of his performances and samples of his teaching techniques.
After being nominated by his colleagues for the Yale symposium, Flaks said he was "really drawn" to the honor because of "getting to spend time with some of the greatest minds in the music education field."
Young musicians in Geneva are sure to benefit from Flaks' lofty music experience.
Celebrate with teacher: Students and faculty at St. Patrick School will honor retiring teacher Ken Cordier with a 10:30 a.m. Mass Friday at the Mission Church off Crane Road in St. Charles.
Plenty of students who have attended St. Pat's in the past four decades either had Cordier as a teacher, or most certainly know who he is. As he finishes this year, he completes his time at St. Pat's with 43 years under his belt. That's a good run for one teacher in one place.
Rosemary Leppert of St. Charles sent me a note to let me know that Mr. Cordier taught all of her kids. That was no easy task, apparently.
Joseph and Rosemary Leppert sent 10 kids Mr. Cordier's way.
Anyone who attends St. Pat's, or had Cordier as a teacher is invited to attend the special service. The church bulletin last weekend encouraged parishioners to spread the word to former St. Pat's students.
I'm not a parishioner at St. Pat's any longer, but consider this my effort to spread the word.
A heart in New Orleans: Roosevelt University informs us that Natalie Krusemeier of Geneva plans to hold off on earning her doctorate in English to spend time in New Orleans teaching students still struggling since Hurricane Katrina.
"I had an opportunity to go to New Orleans after Katrina and do hurricane relief," the 32-year-old Krusemeier said in information provided by Roosevelt.
"Looking back on that experience, I realized that my work there was not about the physical work that I was performing, but rather, the sense of normalcy that I was helping to restore to the city," she added.
She applied for a position in a training program aimed at preparing teachers to work in the New Orleans schools with the most pressing needs.
Krusemeier will spend five weeks training this summer as a TeachNOLA fellow.
Krusemeier didn't go to Roosevelt University in downtown Chicago until age 27, initially opting to go to work full-time right out of high school.
But she knows where she wants to end up in this journey.
"I quickly knew that I had a responsibility to help students who would not have a chance to attend college because of the quality of their educations," she said.
"I feel confident that I will gain more from this experience than I would from any doctoral program."
Arts in the parks: We know how to combine area parks with culture it seems. Genevans can celebrate "Go Day" between 1 and 4 p.m. Saturday at RiverPark, with various art, music, poetry and yoga activities.
Those interested in "Go Day," short for Get Outdoors Day, can sign up at riverparkofgeneva.com.
Meanwhile, the St. Charles Park District is preparing for a public reception from 5 to 7 p.m. June 14 in honor of the sculptures lining the walking path at Mount St. Mary Park.
This is definitely something to celebrate. This is the eighth year in which the sculptures have created a pleasing outdoor art show along the Fox River in this beautiful park setting. And this year's sculptures may be the best we have seen in the park.
Upon further review: Sometimes, my initial reaction to a restaurant needs further review. A month or so ago, I wrote that Chick-fil-A chicken sandwiches didn't seem to be anything significant beyond the various chicken sandwiches offered at any number of fast-food joints.
After trying the sandwich again at Batavia's Chick-fil-A, I will modify my first take on this. This is a darn good chicken sandwich that stands a notch above most others.