By Dana Trumbull
When a well-loved teacher leaves, it often feels like no one could ever fill those shoes. Such is the case with Apache Junction High School Director of Instrumental Music Dave Balogh, who retired at the end of the 2016-17 school year. If, however, energy, ideas and enthusiasm can pad the toes of those mighty big boots, AJHS has nothing to worry about. The diminutive powerhouse Jaclyn Chappel is not just walking; she has hit the ground running.
Chappel received word last March that she had been selected as the new Director of Instrumental Music at AJHS beginning July 1, 2017. Before the district Governing Board had the chance to approve the new hire, she was already shadowing Balogh, volunteering her time, getting to know the students and their parents and picking up tips from her predecessor. “I was able to meet the students before the semester ended, and there were several parent meetings over the summer break,” explained Chappel. “Then, of course, there was the band camp in June… during the two hottest months of the year. These kids are dedicated!” Apparently, so is she.
Chappel comes to AJHS from the Roosevelt Elementary School District, where she taught middle school band for four years and the Lead Guitar program (classical guitar) for two years. In fact, it was the Lead Guitar professional Jonathan Crissman who told her she should apply at AJHS. “Jonathan is the mentor for the AJHS Lead Guitar program as well as Roosevelt. He knew that I was wanting to make the transition to a high school, so he let me know about the opening.”
AJHS started teaching classical guitar using the Lead Guitar program at the beginning of the 2016-17 school year with financial assistance from the Gold Canyon Arts Council. Although very familiar with the program, Chappel had previously worked with 4th and 5th grade students. “I was basically starting from scratch, teaching students how to pick up and hold the guitar. Many of the AJHS kids, on the other hand, already had some level of guitar experience when they started the program last year. Even if they had played rock and roll before, that knowledge is highly transferable, so what I saw here this spring when I was shadowing Mr. Balogh just blew me away. These kids are so good!” Chappel shared that there are about 23 students signed up for the classical guitar class this year; an increase from approximately 15 students the first year it was offered.
As for marching band, Chappel’s goal is to carry on Balogh’s winning tradition and push it even further, “I love marching band, but I haven’t done it in a long while, so getting back into it is just really exciting – reigniting that passion I had. Those kids put in so much time and practice, and I want them to reap the rewards of that; to see what can come of it and to push them a little bit more to achieve the excellent and superior ratings in competition.”
When asked what drew her to the Apache Junction/Gold Canyon community, Chappel shared that it was not just the opportunity to work in secondary education, “The size of the school and the tightness of the community [in Apache Junction] are really my dream. I was so impressed at the 4th of July celebration with how many people were there! And the community involvement just blew me away. That, to me, is a sign of good things to come.”
Some of those good things show themselves in the band’s parent support group. “The work ethic is amazing, and they’re really kind and helpful,” Chappel said. “One of my big goals this year is to get even more parent involvement. I tend to be an over-communicator, so I’ve been emailing the parents a lot – some of them love it; some of them don’t,” she laughs. “But my goal is to get more people out to those meetings and really involved. I love that the parents are so candid, too, whether positive or negative. I need that feedback so much, and I’m growing because of it.”
In summary, Chappel stated, “There’s a lot of work to go, but I think we’re on our way. I’m looking forward to a great year.”