Ask anyone and they’ll agree; I am a passionate band nerd. Through my three years at Arrowhead High School, I have participated in four school bands, as well as Marching Band and an after school jazz ensemble, am signed up for a music theory class for next year, and am eagerly planning on following my passion for music as a music educator once I graduate. It’s hard to imagine I started off high school not sure I’d continue band through my sophomore year. But I have Mr. Jacob Polancich to thank for awakening my love of music and inspiring me to continue music through my adult life.
I was terrified of Mr. Polancich (or, as students affectionately call him, Mr. P) my freshman year. I wasn’t in one of his bands (instead I was taught by Arrowhead’s other band teacher, Mrs. Zwirlein; also one of the kindest and coolest women I know) so I typically only saw him at concerts. I was intimidated by his determined expression while conducting and his dry sense of humor that’s difficult to catch if you don’t know him well. It wasn’t until I joined Arrowhead’s Wind Ensemble and Jazz Ensemble my junior year that I realized what a compassionate teacher he is.
Mr. P always has time to talk, whether it be about a difficult piece, interesting news, or just life. I’ve spent hours of my high school life talking with him before and after rehearsals, marching band practices, and classes. He’s always around to give advice and a witty remark, even taking time outside of class to help students work through challenging sections of music. I was lucky enough to work with him on a group solo section I was struggling with; we discussed what issues I was having, why they were difficult for me, and what strategies I could use to succeed. He genuinely cared about my learning and practicing styles and wanted to know how he could help, which is a somewhat rare but valuable approach.
In an unconventional class like Jazz, Mr P truly thrives. His clear passion not only for the music itself, but also for the effort and ideas of his students, is what makes him more than just an educator. He oftentimes pushes us out of our comfort zones in order to help us grow; he tries increasingly difficult music and encourages us to improvise. Sometimes he’ll bring out his own personal bassoon and ‘jam out’ with us in class, invite us to the jazz gigs he participates in, or share music and artists he loves with us. These personal touches make students consider him not just a teacher but a friend, father figure, coach, captain, and role model.
Thanks to Mr. P, the Arrowhead band room feels like home, and I’ll always have an escape from the chaos of life. That’s why Mr. P is, and will always be, my educator of the year.