Nothing is more rewarding for teachers than seeing their students grow up to be successful adults. For elementary school teachers, it’s a long wait to see the seeds they plant bear fruit.
Cynthia Kohanek is seeing her efforts pay off.
Kohanek is in her 20th year leading the music program at Pine. Five years ago, The Village of Pinecrest declared December 13th to be Cynthia Kohanek Day. So the fifth-graders singing in the chorus may not realize it, but they’re following a path to choral excellence blazed over two decades.
“I’m most proud of the students that have come through this program, the humans they have become, the citizens that they have become,” Kohanek said.
“Ms. Kohanek is just one of those exceptional teachers, above and beyond, the work ethic, the passion,” marveled Kohanek’s boss, principal Lynn Zaldua. “A school without the arts and music? It’s just a building with academics and books, this adds life.”
Kohanek’s passion and dedication rubs off on her students.
“There’s nothing like a student or students working so hard, months of rehearsals, practice, and then for them to feel the gratitude and rewards of their accomplishments,” Kohanek said, adding that the experience gives the kids confidence and raises their self-esteem.
Kohanek’s alumni come back all the time. We watched professional singer and actress Carolina Pozo sing with the kids. Pozo told us the lessons she learned here 18 years ago, in fifth grade, still resonate every day.
“If I work hard, I can do this, and that idea has never left me, it’s always kept that drive going and it always reminded me that passion can get you very far in whatever work you do,” Pozo said.
Kohanek’s former students at Pinecrest Elementary include Ashley Levin, who was a contestant on The Voice, and pop star Camila Carbello, who was a member of the group Fifth Harmony and has had a couple of hit solo songs.
So what’s the takeaway for her former students, who learned teamwork and discipline at an early age?
“This has led to many alumni pursuing professional performing careers, but more importantly is my hope that all of my students leave my program with a sense of understanding the value of the arts,” Kohanek said.
Consider that mission accomplished.