Friday, June 24, 2022

Beloved RSU 14 music teacher sails into retirement

By Lorraine Glowczak

After inspiring students in music education for 43 years, and 41 years devoted to RSU 14, Nancy Cash-Cobb is shifting her youthful tomfoolery from the classroom to retirement. She plans to spend time with family and friends and her husband, Jerry Cobb, on their lakeshore home on Crescent Lake in Raymond during the summers while hitting the road in their RV to the warmer climates of Florida and Texas during the Maine winters.

After 41 years of teaching music to students in Windham and
Raymond and 43 years overall as a music educator, Nancy
Cash-Cobb has officially retired from RSU 14. Through the
years she has inspired thousands of children to enjoy music.
“I have a whole list of things I plan to do during my retirement,” said Cash-Cobb, whose small physical demeanor explodes with a big personality. “I plan to meet with friends for lunch, spend time floating on our newly purchased pontoon boat, babysitting my grandson, and exploring the U.S. in the RV my husband and I purchased last fall.”

Her petite but mighty 4-foot, 9-inch presence has impacted the Windham/Raymond community in many ways, including her recent induction into the Maine Music Educators Hall of Fame on May 19 at the Maine Music Educator’s Conference in Orono.

Dr. Richard Nickerson, Windham High School’s Music and Chorus teacher and conductor of Windham Chambers Singer, presented the award to Cash-Cobb during the induction ceremonies. Before delivering the award, he told a crowded room of admiring contemporaries that Cash-Cobb’s classroom is a place of comfort, exploration and wonder.

“Nancy offers encouragement as she helps her students find their voice,” he said. “Her classroom is a safe space where students are free to take chances without any fear of judgment. The mention of her name brings a smile to anyone who has had her as a teacher, even if it has been decades since they were in her classroom.”

Nickerson’s observation about Cash-Cobb’s past students and their love for her was apparent in a recent community Facebook post where people were allowed to share their memories of her. In addition, one parent and student shared their stories in another venue.

“She was my first music teacher, and I had her until third grade,” said former student Jane Davis, whose 20-year-old daughter, Emma, was also a student. “She was the best. I remember being very excited when we grew to be as tall as her, we truly thought we had arrived when we grew to be her same height.”

Jane Davis’ fond memories grew even more warmhearted as she recalled her daughter’s experiences as Cash-Cobb’s student.

“Emma was in first grade, and for some reason, she had a really rough time and did not want to go to school,” Jane Davis said. “But she really loved Mrs. Cash-Cobb’s classroom, and the only way we could get her to school was reminding her that if she went to school, she would get to be in the music classroom. We would say, ‘only one more day, and you’ll get to be in music.’ It was truly the only way we could get her to school.”

Jane Davis said Cash-Cobb could make her daughter feel special and gave her daughter encouragement to overcome her fears and Emma Davis continued her mother’s sentiments.

“Mrs. Cash-Cobb was critical in my education,” said Emma Davis, now a dance instructor and the lead dancer for the Maine State Ballet in the Nutcracker. “She was the only thing that got me through school and nurtured my interest in the arts from a very young age. Even to this day, she supports me; she always makes an effort to reach out to me. She is the best teacher ever.”

Cash-Cobb said she loves every student she has met and does it with unique joy.

“I have always said that I go to school every day and act like an idiot, and they pay me for it,” she said. “I’m silly. It’s part of my personality. I believe that teaching style brings the kids to the teacher and provides an atmosphere of home in the classroom.”

Nickerson backs up her philosophy of education as he witnesses her students’ enthusiasm when they arrive at high school and in his classrooms.

“Her spitfire personality created a safe space for students to be weird themselves,” he said. “When I ask those students who become Chamber Singers what brought them here, they always respond that it was Nancy’s third-grade chorus.”

Cash-Cobb has made many impressions on third-grade students’ musical lives by providing opportunities to perform at many events and venues. These include Windham’s Christmas Tree Lighting, WPS Color Run/Walk, Naturalization Ceremonies, Memorial Day events, the SeaDog’s home games at Hadlock Field, nursing home performances, and opening for the WHS art shows and spring concerts, as well as many performances at the Capitol in Augusta.

Her impact has also gone beyond the classroom. She is actively involved in many statewide and national organizations that include the following: the Maine Chapter of the American Orff-Schulwerk Association for music and movement, spent many years as a Sunday School teacher, was a board member of Maine Music Educators, was a Girl Scout leader, taught Vacation Bible School, was a teacher at the New England Suzuki Institute and is the treasurer for the American Legion Auxiliary.

Cash-Cobb, who grew up playing the violin and was part of the Christian folk/rock group “Free Spirits,” graduated from the University of Southern Maine in music education in 1979. She began her career as a music teacher that same year, where she taught Band, Chorus, and General Music at Sacopee Valley for two years before landing a teaching job in Windham.

Dr. Kyle Rhoads, Windham Primary School principal, said that Cash-Cobb will be greatly missed and speaks highly of her role with the students.

“Mrs. Nancy Cash-Cobb has splendidly taught music education at WPS for over 40 years,” he said. “She has touched the lives of generations of Windham students with her enthusiasm for music and her kind soul. As Nancy prepares to retire, she will be greatly missed by the entire Windham community. Thank you, Nancy!” <

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