Jeanette Engelhart, a 1989 and 1991 graduate of Southeast Missouri State University, celebrated her completion of chemotherapy with a summer in France in 2008.
“Being a cancer survivor makes you re-examine your priorities,” Jeanette says. “Things you thought you’d do eventually suddenly become more immediate. When I finished my chemotherapy at Christmas 2007, I decided returning to Europe was on my bucket list. My friend Teresa retired that year from teaching French, so we decided to make our joint celebration trip to France in the summer of 2008. We spent 11 days in Paris, then five days in Brittany and Normandy, followed by four days in the Loire Valley, and a final three days in Paris. The beauty and majesty of the art and architecture, landscape and gardens, replenished my soul. I returned home renewed and confident that I was stronger as a cancer survivor than I had been before cancer entered my life.”
Before being diagnosed with cancer, Jeanette graduated from the University of Minnesota in 1973 with a Bachelor of Science and went back to school to receive her Bachelor and Master of Music Education at Southeast. She also received the Sierra Nevada College TESL Certification.
Jeanette says she chose to attend Southeast because she lived in Cape Girardeau, Mo., at the time, and it was more affordable to attend than other universities. She had a graduate assistantship during her master’s work, which helped her pay for books and tuition.
“Southeast gave me the basics and the foundation on which to build my career,” Jeanette says.
She made some of her favorite memories at Southeast while being involved in the Department of Music concerts, rehearsals and trips to New York City to sing at Carnegie Hall.
Jeanette advises current Southeast students to “take advantage of every opportunity you can and meet as many people from different areas of specialization as you can—everyone has something interesting to say and can open your mind to creative applications within your own field.”
After graduating from Southeast, Jeanette taught for 11 years in Southeast Missouri. She wanted a change, so she applied to Clark County School District, the fifth largest school district in the U.S., in 2005. She moved to Las Vegas, Nev., to become a high school choir director, then shifted to elementary music specialist in 2009.
“I love working with students in a high-tech school setting,” Jeanette says about her job.
Jeanette is currently going through chemotherapy for the third time in five years. She tries to manage her stress and keep it at a low level, which she says sometimes is not easy in a school setting.
“It’s a chronic disease for me, so I have learned to deal with the side effects of fatigue and nausea and just keep going,” Jeanette says. “Maintaining good health in all the ways I can control makes dealing with ovarian cancer recurrences more manageable. Music and creativity keep me involved and energized, so I just keep going each day.”
Despite her illness, Jeanette has managed to be a co-author of a digital component to a music curriculum that will be released this fall.
Along with teaching children and expanding their knowledge, Jeanette likes to make jewelry, read, sing and travel. She was the church choir director for three years in Cape Girardeau and for the past five years in Las Vegas.
“Every day I have is a blessing, and I don’t take anything for granted anymore,” Jeanette says.