There is a saying that goes, “The best teachers teach from the heart, not from a book.”
Carol Broer is one such teacher who truly embodies this notion. Smart, creative and naturally beautiful, she is an elementary music teacher who believes that teaching is all about relationships and connections, and without them, you can’t teach anything.
“It’s not about books and it’s not about screens, it’s about the the person in the classroom…and sharing who I am in a trusting way, hoping that they will share back in the same trusting way.”
It’s eight a.m. and Carol invites me into her home in the picturesque town of Dundas Ontario, Canada. We chose to meet early because, as one of fifty teachers being recognized around the world for her beauty and passion as a mother, wife and teacher, today is her time to shine.
Carol’s friendly, charismatic personality is infectious and I immediately take out my camera to capture stories of her family, her life and – most importantly today – her love for teaching music.
We are mere days away from the start of a new school year, and one of the fundamentals Ms Broer’s classes will learn is that music is a constant in their world. They will learn that music is about geography, about history, and about math. It’s also about language, science, religion and it’s especially about culture. Music is embodied in the human race and it is an integral part of who we are.
We arrive at Sir William Osler Public School, enrollment about 600 students, tucked away in a lush valley at the bottom of the Niagara Escarpment. Carol has worked here for the past 7 years, and this will be her second home for the next ten months. On our way to her classroom, we encounter a group of new students and their families touring the school. Carol is in her element as she greets them with a welcoming smile and an enthusiastic welcome.
Carol started teaching in 1985, during her second year in university. She a call from the high school she had graduated from two years earlier, asking her to supply teach. “In those days the office could get away with it,” she laughs. That was the start of Carol’s formal teaching career: she went on to complete two undergraduate degrees before getting her teacher certification.
Much has changed in education since she began, and Carol reflects that there is a good deal more curriculum control and less creative latitude, although the structure is often helpful. After many years of experience and continued professional learning, she is a sought-after mentor for new teachers and those who are new to teaching music. “I have had so many opportunities to learn from others, and I love being able to impact thousands of students by supporting their teachers”, she says.
As a photographer and designer myself, I appreciated Carol’s love for creativity in her classroom. She describes her classroom as a place where students can feel safe and confident. “Without risk, there is no music”, she reminds me.
Choosing from a large storage unit next to the xylophone, Carol introduces me to Kaluk, a fluffy polar bear puppet she sometimes uses during her primary classes. The bin is filled with puppets and other colourful, engaging items which inspire children to make music.
“Practice makes permanent”, she says, and describes many ways that she camouflages review and rehearsal through games or challenges, building confidence along the way. Along with the skills of reading, writing and making music, Carol’s students are learning perseverance, cooperation, and creativity.
“What are you passionate about?” I ask Carol, and she replies, “I am passionate about opportunities for children, so that they get a chance to speak, feel and create… and when they have that sense of accomplishment, that’s where feelings of success come from. When they know they belong and they are contributing to the world, that’s the piece I want: That their voice matters, their personhood matters to this earth. That’s what I’m passionate about.”
We end our time together by walking through a newly developed area of the school playground, which was a project spearheaded last year by her Grade 7 students.
Before we part, I ask if there is one thing she hopes her students will remember about her when they look back. She chuckles and replies, “I hope they laugh and say, ‘I remember this crazy time when…’ or, ‘She had the silliest stories about so and so…’ Great! Then they got me! I also hope they remember that I listened to them and I saw them. But in the end, what I truly hope is that I left them feeling important.”
There is no doubt in my mind that she will.♥ Photography & Story by TRISH O’Flaherty :: Originally published as “Meet Carol, She is Beauty Revived” on Nov. 2016 www.BeautyRevived.com & 50 Beautiful Teachers Magazine
Travel & Lifestyle Photographer & Blogger
Trish is based out of Toronto Ontario, and has worked passionately as a professional Photographer, Graphic Designer and Illustrator for over 20 years.
Do you have an inspirational story to tell? Do you know somebody who’s time it is to shine? Trish will be travelling far and wide to find inspiration people to photograph and write about.
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