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Timeless teacher inspires Lapel students with music for 58 years

October Golden Apple Award

LAPEL, Ind. (WISH) —  WISH-TV is Indiana’s education station and a new school year means it is time to celebrate extraordinary teachers with the Golden Apple Award. It comes with a trophy, a school supply shopping spree to Teachers’ Treasures, a video message from students and staff, and a surprise visit from the News 8 team with the help of Hensley Legal Group.

October’s winner is Miss Jeannine Terhune, who has spent almost six decades inspiring students in Lapel and teaching choir in the district. 

She created the choir program back in 1966 and without a doubt, has been shaping lives through the generations.

“She has been teaching for almost 60 years,” Micah Walls said. She’s a district music teacher and a former student of Terhune.

“I think I was 11 years old when she moved into this district,” Micah’s mom, Rose, said. She’s another former choir student and former teacher in the district.

Camden, a 16-year-old student at Lapel High School, added, “It has been 58 years now; is how long she has been teaching.”

Freshman Jordyn Taliaferro, 14, said, “Moms, grandmas, they have all had Miss Terhune. Everybody knows her, everybody loves her. Younger kids are excited to come here and have her as a teacher, people who have graduated say she was the best part of my high school experience.”

Miss Terhune started in the district in the 1960s. She made music part of the curriculum, created the show choir program, and became a living legend in Lapel.

“Oh, she’s an icon. She’s like royalty; she is like Lapel royalty,” another former student added.

Andrew Evelo, a 15-year-old Lapel High School sophomore, said, “She is just a staple to this community.”

Students say a key to Terhune’s success over the years is her persistence and the way she interacts with students. She really cares about what students have to say.

16-year-old student Charlotte Holmes said, “She really cares about what we think and she really listens to our opinions.”

Miss Terhune listens to students and the songs they might like. She also treats her students as if they were her own kids. “She doesn’t have kids of her own, so I definitely think we are all her children,” Holmes added.

Fellow teachers and school staff feel the same way. Lapel High School Principal Matt Boles says Terhune was his high school choir teacher and she has always been devoted to her students and the arts.

She is also devoted to the community by volunteering to play and sing music at church and helping other school districts expand or create music programs.

Boles said, “She’s only here two hours of the day teaching, but she is always here. Her passion and professionalism are really unparalleled. I mean, she comes in every day with a smile on her face and I think this just drives her.”

That’s what drove former student Micah Walls to send WISH-TV a nomination for the Golden Apple Award.

“Where do I start? Well, she has taught for 58 years — can I say that again? Just under six decades — over half of a century,” Micah wrote in the nomination.

Both Micah and his mom Rose became music teachers in the district because of Miss Terhune.

“I am a music teacher because of her,” Micah said.

Rose added, “Jeannine was probably my mentor. She just loves Lapel. She loves Lapel!”

Rose emphasized that there is no sign that Miss Terhune is slowing down. “I think she is constantly learning, even at this age. I think she just keeps on learning better ways of teaching. She still loves it! She loves what she does. And that is why she is such a good teacher,” she said.

Terhune is so devoted to her work, that she kept teaching while battling cancer years ago. Micah says there is no teacher more deserving of the Golden Apple award.

“I was ecstatic and I really wasn’t surprised because she deserves this. Anyone who has taught for 60 years deserves something like this,” Micah said.

In an effort to be a first in this 58-year career, the News 8 team went to surprise her.

Terhune said she was shocked. “I feel great… A little disheveled. I wasn’t expecting anything unusual today,” she said.

When asked if WISH-TV surprised her, Terhune said, “Oh my goodness, yes!”

Then the News 8 team showed Terhune a video message from fellow staff and students. After the video, Terhune responded. 

“I am wondering if this is a dream. I guess the first thing I would say is I have been given so much more than I have ever given others. I do love this community and I love these kids. I am very appreciative, but the reward comes from getting to work with these talented people. And I just feel so honored to get to do this and that they still let me do it,” she said.

When asked what keeps her coming back to every year, Terhune said, “Oh the kids, the kids, and the music!”

Miss Terhune hopes her long career can inspire others to do work they love. “Do what you love, then truly you don’t really work. I love being around kids. I love teenagers, I love their energy and they give me energy. And when I see them singing and dancing every day it fills me with joy,” Terhune said.

To watch other Golden Apple Award recipients, click this link.

To nominate a deserving teacher for next month’s Golden Apple Award, submit a detailed nomination here.