Janita Ducharme was nominated by a former student who wishes to remain anonymous.
"I have this urge to show people there is love in the world, especially when they are surrounded by nothing but loss or hate."
This is a philosophy that Ms. Ducharme has fulfilled every day at Cumberland High School. Going into her 5th year at CHS, she has rebuilt the music department, where she teaches choirs and music theory, and is the advisor of the Tri-M Music Honors Society. In a town dominated by sports, Ms. Ducharme is breaking new ground as an academic leader in the music department. She is branching out into the community, bringing music to new locations within town. She hosts annual choir performances at a local theater and has her choirs attend "all chorus night” to inspire younger students and allow the community to witness talented musicians in the area.
As a teacher, she is committed to excellence, and her lessons extend beyond the confines of classroom walls. Ms. Ducharme is actively involved in her school and community, where she co-manages the All-State Junior Mixed Choir, founded Cumberland Children’s Chorus, and is a member of NAfME and ACDA. She is also pursuing her Masters in Music Education to further her education in order to improve the lives of her students. Within an academic year, she sacrifices around 2,100 hours of her time to rehearsals, concerts, and lending assistance. This time with her students is done out of pure heart. She’s the epitome of what a dedicated educator should be.
A couple years ago, on the day of a concert, Ms. Ducharme was taken by ambulance to the hospital, and her comment to the EMT was 'I’m going back, I have a concert to conduct.' It's this mentality that has helped her choirs rank at local and national music festivals. Ms. Ducharme's goal as a teacher is to lead her students to a point where they no longer need instruction; that they understand the material so well, they can learn and teach themselves or one another.
"Ms. Ducharme spends the year working to improve student skills, mulling over the same piece of music for hours until we know it in our sleep. She believes in us in moments when we have no faith in ourselves and prevents us from ever giving up, posing difficulties as challenges to overcome. I've learned to be proud of the work I offer the world. She helps me to face my fears, pushing me out of my comfort zone." the nominator said.
Ms. Ducharme creates a beautiful classroom atmosphere for her students. She leads by example, creating authentic relationships, celebrating differences, and taking care of students as if they were her own. Students mirror her values by constantly caring for and helping each other, personally and musically. Her classroom is a microcosm of the true beauty in the world. People of different races, religions, culture, and political opinion come together to share a bond of music under her instruction. She is a first-generation American on her father’s side - having grown up around immigrants and culture, she shares some of her Asian heritage wit her students through food and stories. Students feel comfortable sharing personal information with one another in her classroom.
"Ms. Ducharme teaches us to love our differences while communicating and collaborating to bring a piece of music to life. It is a room of open minds and open hearts," her nominator said. "Frankly, I have never encountered people as supportive and accepting of each other."
Ms. Ducharme is a friend, mentor, and confidant. Her students turn to her often, even as former students, when they need advice or simply a shoulder to cry on. She is consistently there every time her students need her.
Ms. Ducharme makes her classroom a safe place for everyone to express themselves freely, and she notices when something is off with one of her students. She cares so much for the students within her classes and choirs. Her advice is gentle yet realistic, and her soul has lived a thousand times over. Her laugh is contagious, eliciting a smile on the most sour of days, and her rare hugs are healing. She is the type of person who, if you need her, would drop everything to come help. Any student who crosses paths with her leaves her a better person.
"This woman’s fibers are made of love, passion, and persistence," her nominator said. "Ms. Ducharme is dedicated to changing this world; she forgoes regards for herself to help others. Fire is the only way to describe her: in her devotion, in her love, in her passion. In everything she is. Her impact is unquantifiable, even this essay does her little justice, and she is the type of person I long to be like. She brings more love to this world every day and the field of education is lucky to have her."
Janita Ducharme in the News:
CHS music teachers Ducharme, Feroce nominated as LifeChangers