Chris Jessen, director of vocal music at Newburg Schools, was named the staff of the month for November/December.

The CTA (Community Teachers Association) at the Newburg R-II School District is recognizing a faculty/staff member every month who goes out of his or her way to make a difference. The CTA finalizes the choice each month and the superintendent and school board then must approve the faculty/staff member.

November/December winner: Chris Jessen, 40, director of vocal music

How did you feel about receiving the honor? “Humbled. I am surrounded by colleagues who demonstrate not only a passion for their subject but an understanding of the importance of love in education, and the development of human relationships.”

How long have you worked at Newburg Schools? This is his second year in the district. 


Education: “My musical education took place at Quincy College, a small liberal arts college in Quincy, Ill. I studied voice under Father Dennis Schafer, OFM, and piano under world-renowned Austrian concert pianist, Leonora Suppan-Gehrich. Additionally, I hold graduate degrees in education from William Woods University and Columbia State University.”

What inspired you to go into your position? “I believe that we are chosen for our vocation, rather than choosing it for ourselves. The greatest inspiration comes from within. To make music is to experience, in a very real sense, the spark of divinity that dwells within each of us. We approach most closely that divinity when we engage in the act of creation and can look at what we have created and say, ‘it is good.’ ”

What is your favorite part of your job? “I think the most rewarding part of teaching in Newburg has been being able to be a member of a community of students and faculty who share a passionate commitment to the humanities. Watching the potential of each student for self-development and self-transformation through immersion in literature, the sciences and the arts blossom into independent thinking and artistic expression are the rewards for our efforts here. Over the door to the historic Newburg High School auditorium is the inscription, ‘He hath no power who hath not power to use.’ What could be more rewarding than to share in the power of the arts and humanities to ignite wonder and imagination.”

What is something about your job people may not know? “Tradition and ‘the sense of place’ are so important to any arts program. Members of our varsity choir are well aware that they are representing not only themselves, but each chorister who has come before them or will go after them. Nowhere does this tradition become as tangible as at our annual Festival of Carols which we begin each year with a candlelight procession. The students and I become keenly aware of our transient mark upon the program, taking part in a never-ending procession of singers and teachers who share in this unique experience, our own journey from darkness to light and for the students, the journey from childhood to adulthood. This is the real privilege of teaching, being allowed to take part in something that is much larger than the individual.”

What are some of your hobbies and interests outside of your job? “Of all my interests, I think I am most honored to have been appointed a serving brother to The Most Venerable Order of St. John by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II, this past August. The order is very active in charitable work in the Holy Land and supports an eye hospital and relief efforts in Jerusalem. Additionally, I am a student of local and area history and enjoy spending free time traveling ‘the back roads’ of the Ozarks, taking photographs and learning about the history and culture of this very special part of Missouri.”