Longtime Cannon Elementary School teachers Carol Hummer and Marilyn Myers are not just coworkers, they are the best of friends … and with good reason.
The two women actually have quite a bit in common. For example, they are both married to pastors. And if it wasn’t for Myers deciding 15 years ago to step down from teaching music at Cannon to try her hand at teaching kindergarten, Myers’ and Hummer’s paths might never have crossed.
So it’s only fitting the two pals say goodbye to Cannon at the same time at the end of the school year.
“We’re the best of friends in school and outside of school,” Hummer said. “We’re the encouragers of young teachers in the building.”
Hummer recalls the day when she received a phone call from then-principal David Carrell who asked her if she could fill in as music teacher for just one year at Cannon.
“He asked if I could be the music teacher for one year because Mrs. Myers was stepping out for one year to teach kindergarten,” she said.
Fifteen years later, Hummer continued to be Cannon’s music teacher and had started a unique violin program at the school.
During the years, the violin program grew from seven students to more than 200 who have learned to play the stringed instrument. All students in first-, second- and third-grade are introduced to the violin and play once a week. Fourth- and fifth-graders meet with Hummer after school to further hone their violin-playing skills.
“I did the same music curriculum but with violins,” she said. “Through donations, I was able to buy 75 to 80 violins for the program.”
Not only do the instruments help youngsters learn how to read and play music, but the students learn about responsibility and respect when handling one of the violins.
“They were so well-behaved because they know if they weren’t, they wouldn’t have an instrument in their hands,” Hummer said.
Fortunately, Hummer’s legacy will live on next school year at Cannon with a new music teacher who is an accomplished violinist.
Although Hummer said the violin program has been “very fulfilling” for her, her fondest memory of her teaching career came in 2002 when she was one of five teachers nationwide to earn the Mr. Holland’s Opus Foundation Outstanding Teacher Award, which she received from actor Richard Dreyfuss at Carnegie Hall in New York City.
“That was my joy and honor,” she said.
Myers said she didn’t become a teacher right away after graduating college. She started out as a secretary and then pastored with her husband in various locations before settling in Vermilion County.
Although teaching music was her first love, Myers has thoroughly enjoyed the 15 years she has taught kindergarten at Cannon. During that entire time, two adult volunteers, Bill and Shirley Felgenhauer of Westville, have lent a hand in Myers’ classroom.
Myers, who has a piano in her lower-level classroom, also managed to incorporate music into her kindergarten class and taught the youngsters sign language songs as well.
“I love the beginning of kindergarten because they come in so innocent and you see them mature,” she said. “Your job is to light a fire and get them to love school.
“I’ve also taught children of children and that’s kind of fun,” she added.
Myers said her most favorite school memory is taking her kindergartners on an annual field trip to see the Amish at Rockome Gardens in Arcola and in Arthur.
“I loved taking them to Arthur,” she said, adding that many of the children were wide-eyed when they saw all of the semi-trailer trucks on Interstate 57.
“We always visited a 100-year-old schoolhouse. It was a marvelous experience,” Myers said.
“This is a neighborhood school and a lot of them don’t get the opportunity to travel and leave the immediate area,” she said. “They need to know what’s out there.”
Both Myers and Hummer said they enjoyed celebrating the 100th day of school every year.
“We count to 100 in a million different ways,” Myers said of her class. “We plan the day around the number 100.”
Hummer said she would teach the students 100th day songs.
Instead of counting to 100, Myers and Hummer are now counting down the days to their retirement.
Myers said she and her husband “are planning a nice trip with our children.”
“We have lives beyond school. We’re ready for a new time in our life,” she said. “We can’t wait to spend time with our husbands and grandchildren.”
Hummer agreed. “When we retire it will be family time,” she said. “I am planning to travel to see family, and I want to get out in my yard.”