‘Teacher of the Week’ keeping students singing together safely during pandemic

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WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — From Broadway to the Cape Fear, the pandemic dimmed the lights of performing arts venues during the last year including local school productions.

Recently, we received a ‘Teacher of the Week’ nomination for Jayme Wood who is the Chorus and Drama teacher at Myrtle Grove Middle School in Wilmington.

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When the weather is nice, Wood takes her classes outside to the school’s courtyard to rehearse for their upcoming spring production of Disney’s “High School Musical Junior.”

“We’re really thankful for beautiful days like today where we can come outside and it’s not raining,” she said.

Due to COVID-19 restrictions, New Hanover County students are only allowed to hum songs during indoor rehearsals to prevent the potential spread of the virus but the rules outside are different.

“They have to be seated at least twelve feet apart, they can sing with or without their mask on–whatever they’re comfortable with, and this is where they have rehearsals right now,” Wood said while standing next to a rolling cart with her electronic keyboard on top.

A graduate of UNC Greensboro, she has taught 13 years and says there’s something pretty remarkable about teaching middle schoolers.

“I’m able to build strong relationships with them and watch them grow,” she said. “The best part about it is seeing how far they’ve come since they were itty-bitty sixth graders and, now, they’re going on into high school and going to continue what has become a passion for them.”

Fortunately, Wood’s students were able to perform their 2019 Fall musical “Annie JR” before the pandemic hit last March eliminating school productions the rest of the year.

“The arts are just so vital to the overall development of our students,” said Cyndy Bliss, principal of Myrtle Grove Middle School. “This really gives the kids [a] sense of normalcy.”

She says two things sets Wood apart.

“Her deep love of the arts as a way for kids to grow and develop, and her demand for excellence from her students,” Bliss said.

Eighth-grader Katelynn Clemmer says the last few weeks of rehearsal before the show are bittersweet.

“It’s sad because its going to be my last musical here with Ms. Wood,” Clemmer said. “It’s an honor to be in a musical during the pandemic because it’s not something most people will do.”

But it was was something Wood says she wanted to do for her students considering all they have missed out on in the last year.

“She’s an amazing teacher and I am going to miss her next year when I’m not here at Myrtle Grove,” Clemmer said.

At the end of April, Wood’s students will record their musical and make it available for a virtual audience to see online in May. They don’t have an exact date yet because the production company doesn’t know how long it will take to edit everything together.

“It is a lot of stress, a lot of headaches, some tears sometimes, and then the final product is always amazing,” Wood said. “The kids always show up and do the best job that they can and I usually cry and I am expecting fully to do that as well.”

If you would like to purchase a link to view the students’ virtual production of Disney’s “High School Musical Jr.,” or donate to the school’s musical program, email jayme.wood@nhcs.net.

If you know an exceptional teacher like Jayme Wood, we’d like to consider them as a future ‘Teacher of the Week.’  Click here to submit a nomination. Each week’s winner receives a $100 gift card thanks to our partners, Down East Heating & Air Conditioning.