Cross Nelson and Mrs. Jensen became great friends in his four years at Hononegah.

By Marianne Mueller


Director of Choral Music, Amy Jensen has made a long lasting impression on students, staff and colleagues at Hononegah Community High School (HCHS) during her 30-year career.

Jensen first developed musical talents in Kindergarten where she learned to play piano.

“Music was really a part of my blood,” Jensen said. “My mother was also very musical; playing piano and singing with Sweet Adeline’s. She taught me the skill of harmony. It was a great joy to find a job that had both of those components; they were the loves of my life!”

Jensen attended Illinois State University for her undergraduate work and received Bachelors in Music Education degree in 1983. She furthered her education at Northern Illinois State University earning a Masters in Music Education in 2007.

Prior to teaching at HCHS, Jensen had a job teaching K-8 music in the St. Charles schools.

When Harlem reached out to Jensen’s husband offering him the band position the Jensens were informed of a part-time choral music job opening at Hononegah. Jensen applied for the job and was hired in 1990.

Jensen directed top rate musicals at HCHS.

“Each production is a little lifetime of its own,” she said. “It brings back the faces and the memories of rehearsals, of music interaction, new faces and graduating seniors. Anytime I think of a certain class of seniors I can always recall their show.”

“It is so hard to choose one favorite show, but if I had to choose I feel the productions of Joseph had a lot of meaning since they were done a decade apart from each other; in the beginning, middle and end of my career. Joseph is such a great show with all the feels and all of the relationship bonding through exciting, fun music and staging. ”

Jensen started singing in choir in 7th grade, continuing through her college years. Her first stage performance was in Oklahoma, her favorite Broadway show. Back in fourth grade she played the role of a flower girl in the dream wedding as well as the actual wedding scene.

“I went on to perform as a chorus member and a dancer in many shows in high school and in the summer Parks and Recreation musicals in Normal, Ill. I met so many friends and learned the power and magic of theater!”

“In the 1990’s, Jensen’s family became involved with Starlight Theater. “I enjoyed being in the ensemble for Once on This Island, Rebels, Honk, and Mama Mia. I was thrilled to play the role of Aunt Eller in Oklahoma in 2005.

“This year I am involved with the backstage chorus for Hello Dolly and Little Mermaid. Jensen has also music directed a few Starlight shows.

Math teacher Kristy Neumer came to Hononegah during the 1993-94’ school year. Up until that time, Jensen had a student choreographer.

The now best friends first met at a faculty meeting where it was discovered that Neumer was also a choreographer, and an award-winning roller skater. Jensen offered Neumer an opportunity to choreograph musicals. “Joseph was our first and last show together. I truly feel that God picked her out and put her at Hononegah for me,” Jensen said.

Also faithfully working behind the scenes of productions is Susan Dibble.

“Susan has always been there for me every year making beautiful costumes and props,” Jensen shares. “She is so talented and gives so much of her hours for the students and for me. She is a true friend that will always come through for you no matter what. I am so grateful for her friendship and all of the memories.”

HCHS Band Director, Jeramiah Kramper has nominated Mrs. Jensen as “Educator of the Year.”

“I am so honored to have been nominated for this award,” she said. Mr. Kramper has been an amazing colleague to work with the past 14 years; He is a good friend and a wonderful musician.”

Jensen expects to find out if she has won while attending a dinner/awards ceremony scheduled for June 23.

Jensen also credits former HSHS band director, and great friend Gene Gregoire for working alongside her to get the music program together while starting in the same year.

“I invite my students back to participate in the winter concert because I miss them and any chance I can get them back in front of me is a true joy,” Jensen said. “Having that one choral piece all my alumni know makes it easy for them to return to their home stage. I think it is important that seniors know when they do leave the Hononegah music program they will always be invited back to sing and to share in the traditions that they have helped create. It strengthens and reinforces our bond.”

Additionally Jensen has also invited alumni to participate in the chorus of musicals such as Les Miserables and this year’s production of Joseph. “Several alumni have joined us onstage; if they couldn’t I received beautiful notes from them,” Jensen said.

“Mrs. Jensen was absolutely without a doubt one of my biggest supporters in high school, and everybody else’s too,” said Class of 2019 alumna Lexie Smith. “She had a true passion for music and teaching and one of my favorite things about her was that no matter what kind of day she was having she always had a smile on her face, and she was always just bright. I don’t think I would have continued to pursue an interest in music if it wasn’t for her. She is honestly one of the best people I’ve ever met. She is kind, genuine and extremely caring.”

“One of my clearest memories of the first day of high school was walking into the choir room and being greeted outside the door by Mrs. Jensen with a handshake and a big smile on her face,” said HHS graduate Cross Nelson. “It’s rare to walk into a class on the first day of school feeling like your teacher already cares about you, but that’s exactly how I felt, and I knew that Mrs. Jensen would be so much more than just another teacher.”

“From that very first day of high school to the last day of senior year, Mrs. Jensen made me feel just as welcome and just as noticed each day. She would always tell us that we should leave our problems, worries and stress at the door, and use the choir room as a space to leave reality and escape into the music.

“The choir room became a sanctuary for so many of us, and some of my favorite high school memories were created in that room, laughing and singing with friends who felt like family. Mrs. Jensen created a space where we could feel at home even at school, and that room truly felt like a home after four years. I can easily say that Mrs. Jensen was not only my teacher, but my friend, and our friendship started with the handshake and the smile outside the choir room on the very first day.”

“Mrs. Jensen is one of my unsung heroes at Hononegah,” said college graduate Hannah Lewandowski. “She always made the choir room a safe place for everyone. She encouraged us to follow our dreams, work on our talents and most of all to practice. She found the heartbeat of songs and the meaning behind the lyrics.

“Whether it was a musical, choir, piano lessons, Mrs. Jensen help us dissect the simplest of phrases to find their true spirit. In her classroom we all learned that music connected us all in many more ways than just one. Those lessons I have taken with me long after graduation. I will be forever thankful!”

“I cannot begin to express the gratefulness I have for the Hononegah school district who has given me a home these last 30 years where I grew as a person, musician, as a teacher and a friend to my colleagues and students,” Jensen said. “The friends and relationships I have made will always be dear to my heart.

“Hononegah has always taken care of me. It is such a wonderful and fulfilling place to work; the fine arts department is a wonderful group of colleagues and we have hung tight together through all these years. The entire faculty is genuine, hard -working and smart! The Administration is thoughtful and works hard to create an atmosphere where relationships and positively are entwined with education as a whole.

“Realizing this phase of my life is complete is a little saddening, but I know it is time for a new energy with new ideas to keep moving the program forward,” she said. “I always remembered what I was hired for – to build the program and start a jazz/show choir. I leave the program with three choirs, two jazz choirs, a Holiday Singers choir, TRI M Music Honor Society, and Musical Theater. It is now a full program for the next director to come in, enjoy and to shape it.”

“My heart will always be with Hononegah. I will always wonder through the days how everyone is doing, what songs they are working on, and will think of certain times of the year, but I know it is time to look ahead to this next chapter of my life that includes family, grandchildren, traveling, giving back, exploring and finding new loves and interests.“



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