Near the music room in Building 17, one can hear the sound of African drums seeping through the walls of Kathy Shepler’s classroom. As Shepler retires from her 15-year-long career as Pine View’s elementary school music teacher, she expresses how the joy of music is something to be shared.
“It’s something [where] I wake up and I will get music going as soon as possible. Again, just lightens your mood, takes you to another place, relaxes you, pumps you up … And as I’ve grown older, I am loving learning music from other countries and other cultures and seeing what that brings to them. And, of course, how can I bring that to my classes? So, this is going to be a hard stopping point for me,” Shepler said, laughing.
Having a pianist as a father and a vocalist as a mother, Shepler’s childhood was heavily influenced by music. Moving into college, Shepler knew that she wanted to teach, with her interests drawn towards history and music. Shepler later decided to become a music teacher.
Before coming to Pine View, Shepler worked at Brentwood Elementary; then, in 2007, Pine View’s campus became Shepler’s music home for the next 15 years. As the new teacher, Shepler consolidated scattered instruments around the campus and received a grant to incorporate African drums into her classroom.
“I would say the drumming was always a real, favorite lesson. We would do the drum circles and letting them learn how to play. It incorporated them into syllables. One of the kids said the other day, ‘I remember us playing, ‘What’s for lunch!’” Shepler said.
In her first year, Shepler encountered two upperclassmen high school students who were interested in running a Christmas musical. The two students asked for Shepler’s help in directing elementary students to sing the music. Since then, Shepler has directed the elementary school Python Choir, hosting seasonal concerts and a Veterans Day program.
Former Python Choir students, twelfth-graders Shayla Hernandez and Sofie Hazelhoff reminisce having Shepler as a music instructor.
“I also remember when I was signing up for classes right before sixth grade, she pulled me aside in the office … and she said, ‘You should take choir! You’re so good.’ I think she’s really inspirational and she really motivated me to stay in choir,” Hernandez said.
“She definitely really cares about her students a lot. She still comes to all of Mr. Gardner’s concerts, and she still remembers my name from forever ago,” Hazelhoff said. “I remember she was very engaging and very sweet. She wanted to prioritize that we had fun over everything else, but she also did little musical lessons … Me and Shayla stuck with it, obviously, we care about music a lot.”
When describing the impact of music when teaching it to children, Shepler said, “It brings them such joy.” Shepler paused, and her eyes widened. “When you see eyes light up when songs come on, or when music is played, there’s a part that touches your heart. So to me, music is your heart.”
As Shepler retires, she plans to move back to Louisville, Kentucky, to reunite with her mother and sister. Possessing a sense of home and community in Louisville, Shepler plans to reconnect with old friends during her retirement.
“I’m gonna miss the years here. And I will, I will. It will definitely stand out in my mind, out of all the schools I’ve been at, as one of my best memories … Being at a two to 12 [school], that is an experience very few teachers get to do,” Shepler said.
This article is linked to a QR code that appears in print on May 20, 2022, News, Page 4, of the Torch with the headline: Kathy Shepler.