Jamie Davis remembers well his first group of band students at Spectrum Community School.
As a young music school grad only a handful of years older than his musicians, he took on the task of creating something out of virtually nothing.
“We started with 17 kids and it was pretty daunting at first,” says Davis, still just 30, but eight years into his teaching career. “It was inspiring too, the way you talk to the kids and tell them, ‘hey we have this opportunity to do something great here.’ The kids just kind of glommed onto it together.”
Davis, our Great Teachers honouree at the secondary level, has built that modest first-year total into a well-rounded music department with around 250 registrations.
“It all started with that first class of kids who really believed in what we were trying to do. They put a lot of energy into it. They come back from time to time and talk about what they’re doing now and they all look back on what happened in those first couple of years.”
It’s gratifying these days, he says, when he sees a student cross the stage at graduation time who had attendance problems before joining the music program.
But the successes come more frequently, Davis adds.
“The bottom line is this is the best job in the world. I go to school every day, work with kids and get to play music every day.”
Asked what he believes makes a great teacher, he says, “It’s being able to make connections with kids. That’s your number 1 job as a teacher, above teaching notes and rhythms or algebra equations or whatever. That goes a long way. It’s amazing what kids will do for you when they trust you and know you’re interested in their lives.”
What former teacher was your inspiration? – “My high school band teacher, Don Bennet (Kamloops). I did my practicum with Dale Wilson at Reynolds and he really changed the way I think about teaching. He taught me to look at my students as kids first before musicians.”