NEW SHARON, Iowa — Music class at North Mahaska Elementary School is a welcomed break from reading, writing, and arithmetic.
“It’s good for the kids. It’s good for the emotions,” says music teacher Carolyn Brickley.
Former students like Nick Ryan remember how important releasing that energy was to help get him through the day.
“I struggled all the way through school academically, the academics didn’t click. Sitting in a classroom and being quiet, it didn’t work for me,” he says.
Former and current students alike, Brickley considers them all her children. She never had children of her own.
“My grandma once said, ‘don’t worry about it, you have all these children at school,’ and she was so right,” Brickley smiles. “These are, in a sense, my children, but I can send them home after school to their parents and not have to worry about it, so it’s the best of both worlds, kind of like a grandma situation,” she laughs.
That was until one student came along needing a temporary foster home. Brickley says that temporary stay all changed when she and the boy agreed on saxophone lessons. Her now adopted son, Rusty Johnson, is a professional musician and remains by her side. He says the confidence he instilled in him is the same that she gives her students.
“I think that’s one thing that Ms. Brickley excels at, is making music fun enough for students to stick with it long enough to have them realize, ‘hey, I’m good at this, I kind of like this.'”
Brickley was nominated by several current and former students for the Golden Apple Award. Her son knows the award is something she will cherish forever.
“Its something I know that from years and years to come, she will walk by it every single day and reflect. There will be a different story that replays in her mind from the last 40 years of teaching. There is going to be different memories, and, to me, that makes it all worth it.”
Brickley is planning to retire at the end of the school year after teaching in the district for 38 years.