The next chapter

District librarian and PV music teacher retire at the end of the school year


Contributed by Margaret White and Aishwarya Pathri

District Library Media Specialist Margaret White has been working for the district for 20 years and PV instrumental music teacher Joe Zajac has been a band director for 40 years. Both have retired at the end of the 2019-20 school year.

Ilmie Xhaferi, Staff Editor

When district Library Media Specialist Margaret White first decided that she wanted to become a school librarian, she felt that she could “fit in” with the job. 

“I have a couple of librarian friends, so I’ve always kind of liked the atmosphere of the library,” White said. “With being friends with these women, I just thought that I could fit in at a library especially because you’re never really bored in a library. You can always pick up a book.” 

While White has been working for the district for 20 years, PV instrumental music teacher Joe Zajac has been a band director for 40 years. Both have retired at the end of the 2019-20 school year. 

White’s Retirement

After selling a restaurant that White and her sister owned in 1997, she knew that she did not want to return to a career in culinary or business ownership. 

“Restaurant work was really hard,” White said. “I was trying to decide what I was going to do, and I was returning books at my local library. I saw they had a sign for a library assistant, and I thought ‘You know what — I’m going to apply for that job.’” 

While White was a library assistant in West Milford, she realized that she could be a librarian because she said she has always liked the atmosphere in the library and reading. She then decided to attend Rutgers University to earn a degree in library science. 

After attending graduate school, White became a librarian for PH in 2000. She was then asked to work throughout the district in 2015 as a library media specialist. 

White stands in PV’s library. She has been working for the district for 20 years. (Contributed by Margaret White)

“I thought I would be best suited in a school library because I just think that reading and information skills are probably the most important thing that we can learn,” White said. “I just want people to read because I think it’s something that can sustain you for your whole life.”

White said that she first started working at the district “right at the beginning of the internet,” which allowed her to become more accustomed to using technology in her job. 

“The internet was so ubiquitous, so it was like a scavenger hunt to find the information that people wanted all the time,” White said. “I liked that aspect because it was very intellectually stimulating and I learned a lot of things about a lot of different subjects.”

While White is responsible for organizing the shelves of the libraries and teaching students how to access the school’s databases, she said that creating a budget for the library is another aspect of her job.

“I have to put together a budget and tell [the district] what I think the students and teachers need,” White said. “[The budget] is based on observation, what I know they need, what I think they should want, and trends I see from other libraries and professional readings.”

White said that she tries to keep in touch with what students may like by going through sites like Goodreads and attending conferences that share information about popular young adult authors to accommodate their interests.

“One of the key things that [White] really taught me was to get to know your patrons,” said Christine Steinmetz, the library media center clerk. “She told me to get to know your students, whether it’s reading up and coming books yourself or staying [updated] on the genres so that you can connect with your students.”

White said that she will miss the students when she retires. She looks forward to spending more time on activities she loves like visiting her grandchildren, hiking, traveling, and gardening. 

“There is an incredible energy that you get with working with young adults,” White said. “Sometimes these kids just make me laugh because of what they’re saying and doing, so I’m definitely going to miss them.”

Zajac’s Retirement

Zajac was almost willing to give up his search for a job as a band director. 

“Having no success in my job interviews, by August, I was almost ready to give up when I noticed a job listed in the Sunday New York Times with ads for a band director,” Zajac said. “I mailed in a resume, was interviewed, and then hired one week before the start of the 1978-79 school year.”

After getting the job at PV, Zajac has not only been a band director for 40 years, but he has also taught classes such as Intro to Music through Guitar, Guitar I, Music Theory I, Music Technology, and History of American Music.

“I was in the band in high school and college and got experience in conducting and arranging music for various music groups,” Zajac said. “When I found that I could get paid for doing what I like, well that really made my mind up.”

Although Zajac said that he will miss the students the most when he retires, he feels that he’d been teaching for a long time and looks forward to relaxing with his wife and dogs. 

“PVHS has always had good students and the students in the band are the best of the best,” Zajac said. “However, I’m excited to do activities like editing 50 years of photographs and slides and traveling whenever [my wife and I] please.”

Zajac poses for a picture with the 2019-20 PV marching band. (Contributed by Aishwarya Pathri)

To honor Zajac and his retirement, junior Aishwarya Pathri and her fellow bandmates decided to organize a secret video in which current concert and marching band members, along with PV alumni share their own farewells to Zajac. 

“[My bandmates and I] decided that since we can’t say goodbye to Zajac in person, it would be nice to give something to remember us by. It’s a way for us to say goodbye since we’re all stuck in quarantine,” Pathri said. 

Pathri sent out emails to her bandmates and PV alumni that explained the guidelines of the video. Pathri also sent a link to a shared Google folder where participants could submit their farewell clips and any pictures of Zajac. 

“I figured that [the video] can be a little emotional for people so I didn’t make [any] big restrictions to the video,” Pathri said. “I just said to make the video under one minute, but if they really wanted to make a longer video they could. In the guidelines, I suggested that people can talk about their memories and what they’d miss.” 

Senior Sophia Lange volunteered to help Pathri edit the video, while Pathri collected and organized the videos and pictures. Pathri shared her video with Zajac on Tuesday. 

“There is no other activity that is as rewarding as playing music. It brings people together and it is something you can enjoy for your entire life,” Zajac said. “The friendships and memories you make while playing in the band will last a lifetime.”

Contributed by Aishwarya Pathri