Directing her students before an audience of 18,000 was a huge honor for Jolley, ranking right up there with being the 2004 Alpine School District Teacher of the Year. It also was another affirmation that she did the right thing two decades ago when she brought her four children, ages 10 to 14, to Utah to finish her teaching degree at Brigham Young University.
"I'm so glad I did," Jolley, who is remarried and has an 11-year-old son who'd rather play baseball than sing. "It's my favorite thing in the world. Music is my passion, but teaching is, too. I get to do every day what I would do whether I got paid or not."
Her trademark is the way she passes that passion on to her students, said Terry Hill, principal of the new Timberline Middle School. Hill convinced Jolley to leave Mountain Ridge this year for the new school, which is only a few blocks east.
"Some people have been saying that when Cathy Jolley made the decision to leave Mountain Ridge, property values in the neighborhood dropped $25,000," Hill said. "It's a cute comment, but it reflects the value of an experience in Cathy Jolley's classroom."
Jolley wastes no time in class, where even correction is fun. A seventh-grade class is learning "Jingle Bell Dash" in two parts. Jolley admonished them for singing "bells on bobtails ring."
"There's no 's' on bobtail," she said. "How many bobtails do you have?"
"One," came a chorus of replies.
Kids anxious to succeed choose her classes, seven a day, with a total of 375 students. She has an eighth-grade boys choir with "61 boys to die for," she said. "They get the biggest applause at concerts, and they know they're hot stuff. Like the BYU Men's Chorus, people just flock to see them."
Those boys, taking an elective class, are the best symbol of Jolley's successes, said Emily Clark, an education major who made a special request to her BYU counselor to student-teach this fall for Jolley.
"I'm amazed by the number of boys in this choir," said Clark, a senior from Maine. "The size of this class is a testament to her. At this age, their voices are changing and most boys wouldn't be caught dead singing. Those kids are here because they want to be."
Jolley said teachers should only be in classrooms if they want to be.
"You have to be passionate about what you do," she said. "If you're not passionate about what you do, get out."
The new Timberline Middle School chamber choir, all of four weeks old, headed out to Salt Lake City on Thursday to try out for the Jazz. Maybe a new set of Jolley's Juniors will get to perform in front of 18,000 fans this season.
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