By ANGIE HAFLICH
Surprise was written all over her face as Jane Vanderhoff, choir director at Garden City High School was presented with the Kansas Music Educators Association's highest honor — music educator of the year — right before the start of the GCHS boys' basketball game Friday night.
After her show choir performed the Star Spangled Banner, GCHS Athletic Director Martin Segovia brought Vanderhoff to the court, where a crowded gymnasium cheered as Craig Manteuffel, vice president of KMEA and Hays band director announced the honor.
"Martin starts dragging me out there, and I was like, 'What in the world is going on,'" Vanderhoff said.
Each year, three music teachers in each of KMEA's six districts and then KMEA's executive council thoroughly studies the six nominations and selects its candidate for educator of the year.
As Manteuffel spoke about Vanderhoff being 2014's recipient, she tried to absorb what was happening.
"Jane has taught for 35 years and most of those years have been in southwest Kansas. Lynn Unruh, the Southwest KMEA district president-elect from Cimarron High School stated that Jane has devoted her life to sharing her love of music with young people and helping them develop their musical abilities and that she has touched countless lives and instilled in them her love for music," Manteuffel said. "Lynn met Jane when she first began teaching. She had watched Jane work with choirs and was quite impressed with her teaching abilities and skills. Lynn said she learned a long time ago that if you want to be successful, you should surround yourself with successful educators and watch how they teach. As a new teacher, Lynn looked for support, ideas and encouragement. Jane went out of her way to be friendly, kind and approachable. GCHS Music Teachers Summer Miller and Lyle Sobba speak very highly of Jane as an educator, colleague and friend."
After getting cheers and whistles, Vanderhoff shared a celebratory embrace with Miller, who is the orchestra teacher at GCHS, Kenneth Henderson Middle School and Horace Good Elementary School.
"She was at Kenneth Henderson (Middle School) when I started teaching. That was before the district had its mentoring program, so she was like my unofficial mentor, " Miller said. "She brought me back down to earth."
Vanderhoff has been a teacher for 36 years, but while it hasn't always been choir, it has always had something to do with music.
"My first 11 years, I taught K-12, vocal, general and instrumental and taught theater and humanities and directed the plays — in little towns of about 500 in northeastern Coloardo," she said. "I started out just doing everything and decided my real love is choir, so I looked for a choir job and that's how I got here."
Vanderhoff began working in USD 457 in 1989 at Kenneth Henderson Middle School, where she taught until 2002.
"Then they asked me to come up here," she said.
She said the main focus in her life is her job.
"I'm not married, I don't have any children," she said. "I love the kids, I love seeing them grow and it's very important to me to see them develop into people first, and then musicians — through music, they develop into wonderful people so that's kind of my focus."
She also expects a lot of her students.
"I push — that I do. I'm very stubborn. I push and I don't give up," Vanderhoff said, adding that she expects her students to work hard. "It's tough love — I'll be honest — it's tough love, but I see things in them that they don't see that they have, and my job is to pull that out of them. But that's it, and there are many, many people like me all over. I have a wonderful staff, Summer, Lyle — all of them."
Vanderhoff almost went a completely different route with her career.
"I was in a family that appreciated music, so I played in band, sang in choir. My mother had me take voice lessons, and I also loved English in high school, so when I got to my senior year, I went, 'Music or English — which one can I not go through the day without? And the answer was music," she said. "But choral music is all about expressing a text, so I got my English dream and my music dream at the same time."
In the choir room, Vanderhoff has a sign hanging up that says, "Music + text = magic."
"That's my theme this year," she said.
Even after several minutes had elapsed, Vanderhoff seemed stunned to have received the award.
"I am totally humbled because there are many, many, many fabulous hard-working, dedicated, smart, music teachers in the state and for them to say that I'm part of that group is astounding and humbling," she said.