6 Great Teachers

These local educators know a thing or two about kids.

Photo by Michael Ventura

Brian Bersh

Director of bands and music department chair
Yorktown High School, Arlington
Years teaching: 7

As a music teacher, I develop a rapport with my students that spans four years. Witnessing their progression is remarkable. As they mature, they are able to truly emote through music. They are able to do more than “just play the notes.”

It is a special moment when a student performance moves an audience to tears, or inspires them to get up and dance.

Talent is not a strong predictor of success in the music program. Students may have varying levels of aptitude, but the strongest indicator of success is practice. There is no cramming in music. Achievements are no accident.
I particularly enjoy teaching composers whose music captures a part of the American spirit. Sousa and Ellington are two D.C. natives whose musical contributions are part of the fabric of America.

As teachers, we care. Students carry all these stressors—college applications, tests, grief, social pressure, emotional stress—and it is hard to see. Music can provide a relief from the stress and the ability to express emotions in a healthy way.

I’m never more idealistic than when I head back to school in the fall after having the summer to recharge. The past few summers I have attended workshops through Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City and Music for All in Indianapolis. I play a bit of everything, but I’m trained as a percussionist.

Music participation increases the activity between the hemispheres of the brain, which can lead to effective and creative problem solving in other academic and social contexts.

Students get the most out of their school experience when teachers and parents work together. If parents and teachers are on the same page, the students perceive that they are valued—and that what they are doing in school is valued.

–Lisa Rabasca Roepe

Categories: Education