About 50 former Southfield Public Schools students recognize their former music teacher.
If you grew up in Southfield and went to Vandenberg, Northbrook or Birney during the ’60s, ’70s or ’80s, chances are you had Ms. Prendergast, the music teacher affectionately known as Ms. P.
Best known for her creative energy and enthusiasm, Ms. P (whose married name is Marty Triantafillou) had a knack for making every one of her students feel special. Whether finding them the perfect role in a school concert or encouraging them to step outside their comfort zone, she was a perennial favorite, with students singing her praises decades after being in her class.
Earlier this month, it was Ms. P’s turn to feel special. Around 50 of her former students showed up for a sing-along reunion at the Huntington Woods Recreation Center. In addition to the large turnout, there were numerous requests for another reunion from those who couldn’t be there.
Years after learning the words to songs like “Let There be Peace on Earth” and “Irish Eyes are Smiling,” those who attended the reunion were transported back to their childhood through song and dance as their former music teacher spent almost an hour playing these and other familiar tunes on the piano.
Although Ms. P isn’t Jewish, many of her former students are.
Jenny Bordelove, a 49-year-old fitness instructor from West Bloomfield and former Vandenberg student, said whenever she ran into someone she knew from elementary school, they would break out in one of the many songs they learned from Ms. P.
When Bordelove saw Nancy Goldstein’s pictures on Facebook from a lunch with Ms. P, she reached out to Goldstein and the two women swapped stories about their favorite teacher.
“I realized that everybody had the same fond memories, and it made me aware of just how remarkable she was and how she made such a difference in everyone’s childhood,” Bordelove said.
Goldstein, a 55-year-old elementary school teacher from Royal Oak and Northbrook graduate, credits Ms. P for her desire to pursue a career in education.
During a subsequent lunch with Bordelove, Goldstein and Ms. P, the former students presented the idea of a reunion to their beloved teacher. She told the women that another group of former students, including Jay Kaplan, approached her with the same request and connected them.
Kaplan, a 62-year-old Oak Park resident and Northbrook graduate who stayed in touch with his former teacher, jokes that he’s finally allowed to call Ms. P by her first name. Now an ACLU attorney, Kaplan said he was a shy student who Ms. P brought out of his shell through music.
“Sometimes, when you’re a kid, you see someone through children’s eyes, and you idolize them,” Kaplan said. “Sometimes it’s different as an adult because everybody is human. But, through adult eyes, she’s just as wonderful as she was through kids’ eyes.”
Ms. P, who retired from Southfield schools in 1990 when she moved to her current home in Saginaw, said the best part of the day was watching everyone fall back into their previous roles.
“They were the kids and I was the silly teacher, and they remembered all the songs and the motions to the dance that we did,” she said. “Seeing their enthusiasm, how they all cared for each other, and how the two schools blended was something special.”