Bits 'n' Pieces: Jazz teacher to reunite with students

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Jazz is more than just a musical art form for Natalie Wilson — it’s a way to bring people together.

Wilson, 51, who has taught vocal jazz in Camas for 28 years, has organized a reunion concert for all the current and former students she’s taught at Camas High School, Skyridge Middle School and Grass Valley Elementary School.

Her third-, fourth- and fifth-grade vocal jazz choir will sing four songs for the reunion, which is called “A Musical Homecoming” and will be held at 6:30 p.m. Oct. 27 at the Grass Valley Elementary cafeteria stage.

“The students are really receptive to jazz, at any age,” Wilson said. “Kids really pick it up. It’s that aural style.”

For the past 10 years, Wilson has been teaching elementary-aged students to appreciate and sing vocal jazz. That might seem like a young group to appreciate musical nuances, but that’s not the case, she said.

“We’re one of the only elementary aged vocal jazz choirs in the country, and we’re actually pretty good,” Wilson said. “I teach jazz because it’s what my passion for music is. Being an American art form, I think it’s important to keep it going.”

Many of her former students have remained friends, and several of them asked her to put on a reunion just for choir members, she said.

“I have a student back east that sings opera, I have another that is going to be on ‘X Factor,’ another that sings on a cruise ship, many still sing with their church groups and many of them are still friends,” Wilson said.

She hopes even more former students will turn up for the free concert and reception afterward. The public is also welcome to attend, she said.

“I’m excited for my students now to understand that the friendships they’re creating today through music can last a lifetime,” Wilson said.

Vancouver woman wins science teacher prize

Science is more than a just a list of chemicals or interactions for Maureen Daschel.

The 52-year-old, who lives in Vancouver, has a passion for teaching chemistry and research science to girls, whether they’re her high school students at St. Mary’s Academy in Portland or elementary-and middle school-aged kids in Oregon and Southwest Washington.

“If these young women are going to be our future and are going to be voting, then they need to really understand science,” Daschel said. “I love exposing girls to what scientific research is about.”

Daschel, who’s been teaching at St. Mary’s since 1984, has been named Outstanding Classroom Teacher by the Oregon Science Teachers Association. She’ll get the award Oct. 14 at a special ceremony in Coos Bay, Ore.

She was selected in part for two unusual programs she’s put together.

One of them is a mentoring program in which her high school students work with fifth-grade girls from Catholic schools around the area, including schools in Vancouver.

The other is a research class in which her students spend time visiting local science labs, reading scientific papers and then partnering with professional scientists who mentor them in a lab setting.

“I’m a believer that young girls need high school role models, and high school girls need professional scientist role models,” Daschel said. “It sort of completes a circle.”

Daschel and her children, who attend St. Joseph Catholic School in Vancouver, also often volunteer to judge local science fairs, she said.

“I just love exposing kids to science and teaching them about research,” Daschel said. “Science helps us understand how everything goes together.”

Bits ’n’ Pieces appears Mondays and Fridays. If you have a story you’d like to share, call Courtney Sherwood, 360-735-4561, or email features@columbian.com.