Educator of note

Published on: 4/24/2012

Jenny Keats is not only a principal, she is a musical liaison within Underwood Elementary School.

Because of her work and support of music education, Keats was recognized by the Civic Music Association of Milwaukee as Outstanding Educational Administrator of the Year. The CMA honors educational administrators who have shown outstanding support for music education and music teachers.

Keats was nominated by members of the music department. Although she won the honor, it is the Wauwatosa School Board and the staff at Underwood that she credited for the healthy music education program in the district schools. The board and district administrators, Keats said, are well aware of the nationally and internationally recognized music program, and it is something they are proud of and will continue.

"By incorporating music we're exposing our students to cultures beyond what they've been exposed to, and in a way we're teaching them an international language and that's music," Keats said. "Music is so culturally broadening and a necessary part for them to grow up to be well-rounded individuals."

Keats was hired as a teacher at Roosevelt Elementary School in 1997. She has served as principal at Madison Elementary, Wilson Elementary and most recently Underwood, where she began in 2010. At Underwood, part of her position entails working as a liaison to the music department.

Music, particularly at the elementary level, acts as a reinforcement to every subject the children are learning, from counting and literacy to kinesthetic movement and physical education, which is why Keats said it is especially important to teach in school.

"It's an underlying piece of virtually every aspect of what we try to teach our students," she said.

Educators and administrators are now working to take musical education a step further. Keats announced that within the next two years, the district will be launching an arts festival that will involve kindergarten through grade 12. Students in the music, art and theater departments, chorus, band and orchestra will have the opportunity to showcase their talents. The festival is only in the planning stage; however, Keats is confident it will be a districtwide event every two years.

"Music gives (students) something they can be successful at, be proud of and develop a talent in," Keats said. "It's really important for people to find a niche and contribute to society."