GRAND ISLAND, Neb. (AP) — If you take a music class at Grand Island Public Schools, there’s a good chance your teacher’s last name is Jacobs.
Four members of the Jacobs family — Alyssa, Bobby, Carla and John — all teach music for GIPS. Bobby and Carla teach at Shoemaker Elementary, and Knickrehm and Lincoln elementary schools, respectively. Alyssa teaches at Barr Middle School, while John is the band director at Grand Island Senior High.
Carla and John, who are married, are in their first year of teaching at GIPS, but they have taught for 11 years total. Their son and daughter-in-law, Alyssa and Bobby, said this is their third year of teaching and second with GIPS.
John, an Aurora native, said he began his teaching career in 1986 at Osceola Public Schools, where he taught for two years before being selected for the United States Army Band Program in 1988. He spent 23 years in the Army before retiring and teaching at Minden Public Schools from 2014 to spring 2019. John took over as director of the Islander band this past fall.
“I had the opportunity to join the Army, play music and I found it was something I really enjoyed,” he told The Grand Island Independent. “I always knew that I would come back to teaching. It finally worked out for me to come back home to Aurora after all that time.”
Carla said she has loved music since she was a little girl and became even more hooked when her dad brought home a piano when she was in fourth grade. Her passion continued in junior high and high school and when it was time to choose a college major, she chose music education.
Alyssa said she has always loved working with kids and knew that whatever she did when she grew up, she wanted a career where she could work with kids.
“It was just something I was passionate about in helping sculpt kids and helping them figure out who they wanted to be,” she said. “I was really talented at music and teaching just seemed like a really good chance to work with kids and do something that I love.”
Despite his parents being music teachers, Bobby said he never intended to be a music teacher and initially went to college to study engineering. His first year did not go as planned and, combined with life circumstances, he decided to switch his major, move back to Nebraska and attend the University of Nebraska at Kearney.
Bobby said he coached gymnastics while in college and he learned he liked working with kids. He also shared his parents’ love for music and decided to be a music teacher.
“Music is a really great subject to help young students find their potential and grow into themselves fully,” Bobby said. “I think that without a good music teacher, sometimes lots of kids get left behind and cannot find their potential, not just in music, but in life in general. Since we are all great at music, it is a good subject to go into for teaching. I love teaching.”
The Jacobses said they never planned to teach the same subject in the same school district, but seized the teaching opportunities when they presented themselves.
Alyssa and Bobby said they spent one year teaching at South Central Unified School District (Lawrence-Nelson and Sandy Creek) before coming to GIPS. He said the district was “a little too far away and a little too small for it to be so far away.” So when his grandparents sold them a house to move into in Aurora and there were music teacher openings at GIPS, the couple decided to change jobs.
A year later, the rest of the family joined them.
Carla said she and John thought their jobs in Minden were closer to his hometown of Aurora when they moved back to Nebraska from Marietta, Ga., after John retired from the Army. But when GIPS had a band teacher and a choir teacher opening, they decided to apply.
She said they thought the 25-minute commute to Grand Island was better than the one-hour drive to Minden every day.
“John came home from his job interview with GIPS, walked in and said, ‘They speak our language, Carla. Their vision and their mission is exactly how we talk about education and music,’” she said. “So it was really exciting to get aboard and be a part of what is happening in GIPS.”
As GIPS music teachers, the Jacobses said they collaborate with each other a lot.
Bobby said he works with his dad during high school marching band season and with his mom and his wife for the GIPS Children’s Choir. Since he and Carla both teach elementary music, they often bounce ideas off each other.
“Alyssa will come home sometimes and tell me stories about whatever and I’ll say, ‘Oh, I’ll try that with my elementary kids,’” he said.
The Jacobses said that in being related to each other and having a close relationship, they are able to see where students are coming from musically, as well as where they will go as they get into the upper grades.
“It really puts everything into perspective,” Alyssa said.
John said sometimes he will tell Carla some of the things they struggled with at the high school and she will work on those things with her elementary students.
“She will come home and say, ‘Guess what we worked on today? My kids won’t have that problem,’” he said.
Bobby said as a music teacher, he never knew how much he could influence his students or how much they could admire him until he saw Alyssa teach.
“It is just the kindness she meets every situation with,” he said.
John said that while their strengths are all different, they are able to come together to be even stronger music teachers.
“We talk a lot by sitting at the supper table or we’ll watch a game on weekends and we are still talking about music,” he said. “It affects the way I teach because I am picking up snippets from these guys and, collectively, we are a lot stronger than just me.”