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This is Ann McGrath. I am interviewing Jackie Guttman for the Teaneck Oral History Project. We are in her home at 729 Glenwood Avenue. It is August 23, 1984.
(I) Jackie, when did you first move to Teaneck? (N) On September 1, 1972.
(I) And why did you choose Teaneck to live?
(N) Well I was studying flute with a teacher who lived in Englewood
and also, we lived across the river in Riverdale and we shopped out here constantly as everybody does, and it was very pretty in Englewood so I told my teacher we were going to look for a house in the vicinity and she said, don't move here, move to Teaneck. The schools are better. So we never looked anyplace else but Teaneck.
(I) Where were you born and what was your maiden name?
(N) My maiden name' was Sideman and I was born in New York City. I grew up in Queens but actually was born in Manhattan.
(I) Does Sideman mean anything?
(N) It's funny you should ask that. I went for the course where we were supposed to discover the roots of our names. Sideman, I spelled Seidman, I think refers to people who were silk merchants or something; however, we didn't spell it that way. We spelled it Sideman and I never was able to ascertain if it had been changed from the other spelling or shortened from something else. I haven't the faintest idea if it means anything or not.
(I) Where did your family come from? Do you know any background on them?
(N) My parents were both born in this country but my mother's parents came from Poland and my father's father was born in this country but his parents came from Poland and my father's mother was born in Scotland. But actually I think between probably Poland, no Germany probably, and the states but she was born in Glasgow.
(I) How about your husband's family?
(N) Strictly Polish.
(I) And what does Guttman mean?
(N) Guttman was changed from Gutsick and I haven't any idea what Gutsick means.
(I) And do you know where his family came from?
(N) My mother in law came from Wausau and my father in law from Mudge (?) around the end of the second world war or the middle, somewhere in there. First World War, I'm sorry.
(I) Where did you go to school? What was your schooling background?
(N) Public schools in New York and High School of Music and Art, which I am very proud of, and Park Sten State Teachers College (?) and N.Y.U. for graduate school.
(I) You have a masters?
(I) In what?
(N) Music education and arts administration.
(I) How about your musical education?
(N) Well actually I started taking piano lessons when I was eight, got into music and art on the piano, played flute very badly all through high school, never took the instrument seriously even though I played it all through college. Finally got more involved in it in my middle twenties, pursued it further in graduate school with Francis Blaizel who was the teacher who lived in Englewood and eventually studied with Paige Brook a few years ago. I sort of dragged kicking and screaming into freelancing a little bit which I never intended to do and. .
(I) Are you still doing that?
(N) Very little. Not as much as I'd like actually. Now I am more into it than I was when I should have been.
(I) When you think back on it, why did you, why did your interest revive in the flute?
(N) It never disappeared. I've played flute without stopping since I was 12 or 13. I just never thought of it as something, I didn't realize how much a part of my life it is until I was, oh probably thirty or more. And suddenly there it was. I'd been playing it all these years and started to play more and an assortment of musician friends convinced me that I played well which had never crossed my mind in a million years.
(I) Don't you think you have more opportunity to play the flute than you would the piano with groups and. .
(N) Oh, that's why I stuck to flute rather than piano because I wanted to do ensemble playing and I didn't know that pianos were involved in chamber music. I didn't know what chamber music was until I was out of college, I think.
(I) Are you active in a group, chamber music group, now?
(N) No, I play once in a great while on a TAP concert or give a little concert somewhere else but I play regularly with Bergen Philharmonic but that's 90 pieces and really what I love to do is play chamber music.
(I) You've lived in Teaneck for twelve years. Do you think it has changed at all from when you first moved in?
(N) I don't know. You know, I saw that question, I was thinking something about that, I suspect that most of the major changes that took place in the town, the upheaval let's say, happened just before we moved here. In terms of the school system, that had pretty well settled down. Politically to the best of my knowledge, it hasn't undergone any drastic changes. I think it only reflects perhaps the rest of the country in that things are more on an even keel or, I don't know how else to put that, things are, people are more conservative, not politically, but more. .less inclined to be up in arms about things than they were years ago. For better or for worse. I am not sure how I feel about that.
(I) What do you like the most about Teaneck, living here?
(N) Almost everything. I love it here. I like the diversity of the community which in large part is why we moved here. I also love the fact of so many musicians living here. It has given me an opportunity to become much more active musically than I ever thought I'd be. I mean I went to school to be a music teacher and that was as far as my ambitions went. And the fact that I've played with people in the Philharmonic and I have close friends among them has just meant an awful lot to me.
(I) Is there anything you would like to change about Teaneck that would make it more perfect to live here?
(N) Not necessarily. Not offhand. It's perhaps, very mundane things, lower taxes, make the Building Department a little less fussy, I mean we went through a house renovation a few years ago and went out of our minds with the Building Department. On the other hand, an awful lot of that is for our own self-protection in a way and so, you know, I don't like the taxes but I like the social services and so on.
(I) Where does your husband work?
(N) In New York, on the upper west side.
(I) Does he commute, how does he commute?
(N) By car. We both commute.
(I) Oh, you commute too. That's my next question. Where do you work?
(N) I work in Riverdale, naturally once we left I started getting jobs there, at a place called Wave Hill which is a former estate on the river. I work in a mansion overlooking the river. It has 28 acres. It is really gorgeous. It is now, it classified itself as a public garden. It is really a public garden and cultural institution and it has concerts, art exhibits, horticulture exhibits or course, very active education department, environmental education department and I run the concert series.
(I) What kind of people come?
(N) To the concerts? Well about 60% of them are from Riverdale but we draw from, a little bit from Bergen County, I'm really trying to, push it more in Bergen County. Substantial number from Westchester and upper Manhattan.
(I) What kind of performers do you have?
(N) It is mostly chamber music. There are some very, very fine people too. They are not, most of them are not household names. The hall only seats 175 people. I have very little income from our gate receipts so it limits who we can have there but on the other hand, we've had Ruth Laredo, we will have Walter Trampler there this season, New York Vocal Ensemble, a lot of very, very fine up and coming groups. (?) is going to be there this season.
(I) How did you get this job?
(N) Well, when I decided to change careers I went back to school and had an internship at Wave Hill and everybody said, wouldn't it be wonderful if you actually got a job here? I said, impossible, this guy who runs the concert series is in forever, you know. And eventually, about a year after my internship, I got a job there doing public relations and six months after I started, my predecessor was let go and I was offered the position. It was really a matter of being in the right place at the right time.
(I) When you said you changed careers, what were you doing.
(N) Teaching music.
(I) Teaching music. That brings us up to your teaching here. How many students do you have and how do you go about getting them?
(N) They come out of the woodwork. One good thing about playing the flute is that if you want to teach, there are students everywhere, everybody in the entire world plays the flute. Bad for performing but good for teaching. I have maybe five students, that's all I have time for. My job is three or four days a week.
(I) You have to teach at night?
(N) Yeah. I teach at night. I don't teach on weekends. I used to and I decided no more. I work on weekends. Our concerts are Sunday afternoons and there is no way I am going to teach on Saturday. But I do it to keep my soul together. Sometimes it is the only reason I am playing because I am teaching and I love to teach. When I was teaching school, I was teaching vocal music and I am no vocalist.
(I) Were you teaching in what, public schools? Regular music?
(N) Most recently, Leonia High School.
(I) You taught in Leonia. What grades?
(N) Most of my teaching was elementary vocal music in Nyack and the Bronx, Highland Falls, NY. I hate teaching elementary vocal music. When I started though, they didn't want ladies leading the band, you know, so I was channeled into doing this and then it just became the easiest kind of job for me to get because that's what I had done before.
(I) And why did you decide to leave it?
(N) Well the first time I left was to have babies but it was also because I was teaching in three schools and they kept changing the schools each year and I said, if they keep changing, I'm getting pregnant so they put me in a new school, so I got pregnant. Some reason to have children. And then I just, I did bits and pieces, a little bit of subbing, a little bit of . .
(I) Have you ever subbed in Teaneck?
(N) I've subbed in every school in Teaneck which is one of the reasons I feel so good about the school system. After I quit teaching in Leonia, which was my last regular job, I decided to take a year to decide if I really wanted to make the commitment of going back to school again so I spent a year doing whatever I felt like doing. I played a lot and I subbed and I was fortunate in that they liked the way I subbed and so I had more work than I wanted. I ended up subbing for Mr. Jenny (?) who was very ill, you know, and subsequently died so the last, he was out nine weeks the last year and I took his place which was, for me, very interesting because I thought I had always wanted to teach elementary instrumental music and I had this wonderful opportunity to find out that I didn't. I didn't want to teach in the closets and storerooms and all that. But the great thing is that I was in every school in town and given the fact that my kids are in the school system, I learned an awful lot and could speak with even more confidence than I had before of how strongly, how positively I felt about the schools.
(I) Let's talk about your children. How many do you have and what are their names and ages?
(N) I have two boys - Mark and Edward. Mark is starting the high school as a ninth grader this year. He is 14. Edward will be a senior. He is 17.
(I) So you'll have two children in the high school this year. Now how old were they when they started in the Teaneck schools?
(N) We moved here a few days before Edward started kindergarten. Mark was in nursery school.
(I) How would you describe the Teaneck schools?
(N) Caring for one thing. This has been our experience.
(I) You have a good background in comparing them.
(N) Yeah. I found it fascinating that you could walk into a school and sense an atmosphere the minute you walked in. There is some thing in the air and it varies from school to school. It was really just a fascinating study. I love the high school. I love the vitality of it and the breadth of the curriculum. As a musician, I am not entirely happy with the music program in town and across the board but that's my own personal axe that I have to grind. But overall, I mean Edward has just had the most fabulous school career. We couldn't ask for anything better.
(I) Do you remember some of his teachers from beginning to the high school? Could you mention of them? Or what schools he went to.
(N) Okay. Both of them went to Hawthorne and Thomas Jefferson. And to Bryant before that. I forgot about Bryant. Bryant I loved.
(I) They're young enough to get into the K-l?
(N) Yes, they did. And the fact of the busing and so on never bothered us or them. Well for me it was good. It gave me an extra half hour that they were gone because I was working in bits and pieces at the time. Bryant I loved because it was so warm, you know. They really took such good care of the children and Art Lewis was principal. One day, something happened, one of them missed the bus home and suddenly came driving up with Mr. Lewis. That sort of thing. I was astounded by it. Mark has had difficulty going through school. When he was little, he was one of these so-called learning disabled children. He learned to write late; he learned to balance late; he learned to recognize colors and shapes late. Consequently, he could have been classified as a dull/normal child or whatever they call them these days and never was. In first grade, Mrs. ..
(I) Did you like the testing and all.
(N) Yes. His first grade teacher was Mrs. Celenko (?) who had been Edward's first grade teacher too. She called me and said, listen, we gave him these standardized tests. Mark tested terribly as you probably know. But I am making a notation on his record that it is because it is a timed test. It is clear that this is not, that he is not a dumb child, you know. That sort of
(I) It is just so great that they can sort of do that.
(N) Yeah. That kind of alertness. I was just so grateful for it. I mean every year I've gone to school and had to explain Mark to his teachers but they've responded to that with very few exceptions. When he was in Hawthorne, Mr. Adanazzio was absolutely, how should I put it, compassionate, sensitive. He had special Phys Ed, he had special math, he had special reading. He was always in a regular class but was always pulled out for additional help and responds wonderfully on a one-to-one basis as does everybody else and benefited so much but the child study team took him apart and put him back together and adored him and he adored them. He loved the attention.
(I) Do you remember who was on it, not the names but the people who were on the child study team?
(N) Yeah, sure.
(I) Could you describe it?
(N) You don't want names?
(I) Well yeah.
(N) The person who I think was most closely with Mark was Paula Regal whom we still run into in town and various other places who was just so loving and warm and knew what she was doing as well which didn't hurt. You know, they gave Mark standardized tests on a timed and an untimed basis and all through school he (interruption)
(I) Let's get back to the child study team now.
(N) They were able to establish what I had been saying and thinking all along which is that Mark had a very fine mind but had trouble fitting it into standardized ways of learning things. It took him longer to learn everything and having this verified and dealt with without stigmatizing him was just so important and I have other school systems and relatives' experiences in other school systems to compare it to and I will never forget how grateful we were about it. It was just an incredible experience.
(I) Was he taken out of the classroom for any special work?
(N) Well as I say, only on a limited basis from time to time. He was never in any kind of a special class or anything but he was in, I guess in the junior high, it would have been, elementary school, reading center right. He loves to read. He reads like a son of a gun now and he reads as quickly as any other child. In fact, most recently on the last set of MATs they took or something, he came out fine. He came out like at the high end of average on the timed test which is the first time that has happened that way
(I) The sky's the limit now.
(N) Yeah. And the fact that now that he was diagnosed, he can take an untimed SAT for example. These are things I would never have known anything about. I mean I knew enough to alert the school system to the fact that there was something a little odd going on there but what to do about it, how to deal with it, certainly I wasn't equipped to do that. I mean it has just been incredible.
(I) And this began in first grade, not kindergarten. There was no
(N) No. In kindergarten, you know, so much of it is playing. I am trying to think of who his kindergarten teacher was and I can't think of her name. Both of them had the same kindergarten and first grade teachers but, oh Mrs. Margolies who is no longer Mrs. Margolies. She was aware of this too but it was less crucial at that point. It was, so he was developing a little bit late but if he had caught up by second or third grade, fine, you know. But it didn't work out that way.
(I) How do you feel about the reorganization and the ninth graders going into the high school?
(N) I have always hated junior high so the fact that it has changed into an intermediate school doesn't bother me in the slightest. I have some qualms about having a child who is going into a ninth grade in a school that hasn't had a ninth grade before.
(I) In what way?
(N) I don't think Mark needs any extra confusion and I suspect there is going to be an element of confusion.
(I) You mean just statistically moving people around or the teachers moving around?
(N) The teachers, how to deal with ninth graders?
(I) You mean teaching down maybe or . .
(N) I don't even know. I just, I would rather have him in an established situation, that's all. But I've been in touch with Mr. Delaney not to a great extent but I've spoken to him once. As a teacher I've always hated parents who, in fact one of the thing that drove me nuts is that a lot of the parents in Teaneck which fortunately was not too evident in this end of town, those parents who involved themselves to such a great extent in the school system. I don't believe in doing that and yet I've had to to some degree. So I have been in some touch with Mr. Delaney about it and we'll see what happens.
(I) Well you must be aware of some of the positive things that they do. Can you tell me what they are?
(N) Well you see we considered sending Mark to private school this year. I mean not just for this year but for the four years and because the high school turned into a four year high school, we decided we had an option so that if ninth grade doesn't work out, we still have three years in a private school and as I explained to the headmaster who was a little put out when I said thank you for accepting him but no thanks, we love the system so much and respect the system so much that we want to try it and see if it can work out and it is nice to know we have another option if necessary. Mark is very much involved in music, for example, and I want him to have the opportunity to play in a good high school band. His junior high band left something to be desired. And again I wanted him to be able to take advantage of the range of the curriculum. You know, you are always giving up something to get something and we'll just see how it goes.
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