Janelle Ganske

Hillsboro Music Teacher Could Be State Teacher of the Year
Posted on 05/06/2021
Janelle Ganske
Janelle Ganske first came to Nashville for a master’s degree at Belmont University because a class called “Contemporary Issues in Music Education” had caught her eye. But after graduating and moving on, the Wisconsin native discovered she wasn’t quite “done with Nashville.”

A decade later, the Hillsboro High School choral music teacher is one of MNPS’s Teachers of the Year – and a finalist for Tennessee Teacher of the Year. Janelle Ganske

Ganske, who has taught in the district for nearly 10 years, is the Mid-Cumberland region’s candidate for the award for teachers of grades 9-12, joining eight other high school teachers from across the state. She said she’s proud to represent her fellow performing arts teachers throughout MNPS.

“I’m just one of many of us that do what we do. To have stayed as relevant as we have stayed, especially in Nashville, it’s because that’s what we’re constantly doing. We live in this city where opportunity is literally everywhere, and so we take advantage of that to the fullest.”

Ganske said she caught the teaching bug as a high school student, when she first thought she would enjoy doing what her choir director did. That led to a workshop for students who were thinking about music education careers, and she “drank the Kool-Aid" there.

“How to transcend to something bigger with a group of people, I thought that was just so cool,” she said. “Going to that workshop, where it was a bunch of people who were serious about it like me and having that moment of creating together, it was, man, I want to do this for others, and how do I do that?”

One way to do that is to let students in on her process of choosing the music they’ll learn. Ganske said she needs to “hear the concert in my head before we ever start singing,” and bringing the students in “on the front part of that backwards design has worked out pretty well.”

She said she’s learned over the years that “it really is about facilitating the learning; it’s not about what you know, it’s about how you know and why you know.” That approach wasn’t intuitive at first for music, in which there are clear right and wrong answers about notes and keys and time signatures, but she got there.

“You get a little bit of both sides,” she said. “You’ve got to have the rigor and the regulations and these are the facts and these are the standards, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have actual discussions and thoughts about things as well.”

Ganske teaches students in grades 9-12 in courses such as International Baccalaureate Music, General Music, Critical Thinking, African-American Studies, Speech, and other subjects.

Jeff Smith, MNPS’s director of visual and performing arts, said Ganske’s candidacy for Tennessee Teacher of the Year “is a tremendous honor which recognizes her dedication to helping her students reach their fullest potential through choral music education.”

“Ms. Ganske was recognized for her work with the CMA Foundation Music Teacher of Excellence award in 2016,” Smith said. “She is committed to supporting the work of her colleagues throughout the district and has served in a variety of leadership roles to assist with curriculum writing, textbook adoption, and strategic planning for music programs in our district. Her colleagues hold her in high regard for both her musical abilities and her ability to engage students in meaningful music making.”

Ganske also is the musical director for the award-winning Hillsboro Players student theater group; leads the Pops Choirs, a Hillsboro community outreach singing group; and has developed a new system for making announcements – which was what she thought she would be telling MNPS leaders about before they surprised her with the Teacher of the Year news a few months ago.

“I was up so late,” she said, laughing at the memory. “I was ready to talk all about the beauty of announcements. That was one of those moments I’ll always remember. They had arrangements for who was going to cover my virtual classes. They went all in with that surprise.”
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