Let’s face it, very few youngsters enjoy sitting in a classroom first thing in the morning. But the best teachers are the ones whose personalities are so bright that the light bulbs inside their students’ heads are switched on anyway.
As the old saying goes, ‘the good teacher explains, the superior teacher demonstrates, the great teacher inspires’. And Heather Massaquoi of Bradenton Preparatory Academy definitely falls into the latter category, a fact that was recently recognised when she was honoured with the title of ‘Most Inspirational Teacher’ at the Mariamma Varkey Awards.
Currently in her 19th year of teaching and her sixth year in Dubai, Heather teaches music to Grade 6-12 students, with a focus on vocal music (she runs middle and high school choirs), as well as teaching AP music and advanced instrumental. But what inspired her to become a teacher, and more specifically a music teacher? “I have been playing piano since the age of three,” she explains, “so I have always been a musician. However, I thought I was moving into the music therapy field, actually training in that discipline, but whilst volunteering overseas I was thrown into a classroom and that was the start of my teaching career!” So upon returning to Canada, Heather enroled in a teacher’s college and from there trained to be a music teacher.
Today, Heather studies classical piano, and has a love for all of the great composers. “They are not my inspiration, but I always enjoy playing Brahms and Chopin. Those are my two favourites,” she says. So what is her inspiration? The response is immediate: “My family. When you start getting older, you start to realise who your parents are and what they do and what impact they make on people. And I saw that from a young age. They are my main inspiration.”
Heather also has some very firm ideas on what it takes to be inspirational. “You need to have a drive; you need to believe in something. It’s no good just thinking how to make the most money; you need to recognise what you’re good at, what’s your hustle? Everybody has to have that hustle, mine is teaching. It’s what inspires me, what sustains me throughout life. Simply put, you need to believe in what you are doing and make sure you have all the tools necessary to pass that on to someone else.”