Sherresa Spivey thinks her band teacher Heather Mason is great. "She still has patience to go over the music with us and it makes us feel good that we have a teacher like that," says Spivey, a 7th grader at Alexander City Middle School (ACMS).
Even though many of Mason's students are starting from scratch she builds them into musicians. For instance her beginner percussionists have to master every percussion instrument. 7th grader Jesse Lashley says, "I learned it's harder to play like the bells or the drum then playing any other instrument, because you've got to learn more and you play more than one instrument."
Mason not only converts individuals into musicians, she also brings them together into a cohesive unit; and does it at a speed that inspires praise. Acting principal Sandra W. Foshee says, "she spends countless hours after school, working with individuals he;ping them learn their instrument; and really, very quickly they sound like a band, and it's amazing."
While band class is an elective, that doesn't mean her students turn off their brains when they step through her door. She makes her class demanding. "It's really just like learning a foreign language. Reading the music, reading the rhythms, it helps them think in different ways, higher order thinking skills which we're always trying to push and hopefully it opens new pathways where they may think of something a little different; and not only does that help in here, but that helps in another class that they go to," says Mason.
Along with the academic benefits, Mason helps her kids develop an appreciation for music, that can last a lifetime. Spivey says of her new musical ability, "it's a gift to be able to play all of these instruments and have people come up to you and (say) like, 'wow, you play this and that, I wish I would've took band, it's nice the way y'all play.'"
Commendations are nothing new to Mason, last year she was the Alexander City school system's teacher of the year. She has more than 180 kids in her band classes; about one third of the student body at ACMS.