Hometown Heroes: Master teacher Rebecca Holmes says music unlocks student creativity

Published 12:14 am Saturday, May 12, 2018

RESERVE — Enrichment classes are more than a planning period for teachers or a brain break for students, according to Rebecca Holmes.

To Holmes, master music teacher for St. John the Baptist Parish Public Schools, music means experiencing concepts taught in English language arts, history and math. It means giving children outlets for creative expression.

Rebecca Holmes

A music teacher has a responsibility to recognize a child’s potential and instill self worth, Holmes said.

This year, Holmes spearheaded a string orchestra at Fifth Ward Elementary, the first of its kind in St. John Parish. Thirty children learned to play violins, violas and cellos funded by a grant from VH1 Save the Music Foundation.

In October, Holmes worked with music professionals in Washington D.C. to develop a novice string curriculum for use in schools around the country.

Holmes hopes the curriculum conveys a message of unity, something she’s seen in music history and in her own classroom.

After injuring her thumb Sunday, Holmes felt defeated at being unable to play along with her string students at Wednesday’s Spring showcase.

To her surprise, VH1 representatives drove in with their own instruments. Meanwhile, student Jhermani Davis helped organize extra rehearsals to prepare for the concert.

“There needs to be a better word than ‘amazing’ to describe the kids,” Holmes said. “They are so eager. There are days when teaching is exhausting, and then you see this little girl asking to practice more, and it fuels you.”

Jhermani enjoys playing violin at concerts, even when she’s nervous.

Cellists seen are, first row, Demarco Dillon, Tia Vicknair and Rakayla King in the second row.

“I love [Holmes’] class because it’s so fun, and I love the instruments,” Jhermani said. “She’s so happy and cheerful. We want everyone to know it’s awesome to play these instruments.”

Fourth grader Tia Vicknair said it’s “really cool” that Holmes makes time to teach strings.

“When you make a mistake, she doesn’t point you out,” Tia said. “She says if one messes up, it’s not just on you because it’s all of us together. She’s never mean, even when she has a bad day.”

Teachers cannot be heroes without students, Holmes said.

Since she was in first grade, Holmes knew she wanted to teach, but it took the guidance of positive role models to mold her into the teacher she is today.

Sixth grade violin teacher Joe Tarentino was warm and welcoming, able to see her potential.

When Holmes switched schools the next year, music teacher Kathy Wallace changed her life with unwavering support, making time to attend her basketball games and offer help when she was being bullied.

“It still resonates with me today, and I feel a true responsibility to make my students feel every bit as important as she made me feel,” Holmes said. “Kids need to have that person speaking up for them.”