A student in the San Elijo Middle School (SEMS) band described Anastasia Homes as “strict but chill” — and she considers that high praise, indeed. “I have high expectations and standards, but I am always there to encourage the kids, help them through it and try to make light of the mistakes,” she says. “Kids have so much stress these days, music should be a place where they can enjoy being creative and develop skills to a level of their desire. My goal as a music teacher is to teach them about what it is to be a good person through music and give them a lifelong appreciation for the arts.”
Homes has found creative ways to instill music appreciation in her students. She worked with percussion coach Zachary Elliott to start a world music course, an after-school percussion class that meets once a week. In the class, which is supported by an expanded learning opportunities (ELO) grant, students pick out instruments and music to expand on music elements from other parts of the world. “The kids are working on an African piece right now that they plan to perform at a percussion festival later this year,” Homes says.
Homes saw how well a mentorship program worked for the band at San Marcos High School and worked with the high school band director, Geoff Radant, to develop a step-by-step plan to integrate the mentorship program at the middle school. Homes and her co-director, Shannon McInnis, created outlines for students to follow that included how to first contact their mentee, things they could work on in meetings and just how to break the ice. “High school students mentored our 7th graders, and 8th graders mentored our 6th graders,” she explains. “We tried to pair kids based on personality and instruments. All students volunteered their time and met when it worked for them. It is still a small element in our program, but my hope is that in years to come we can make it something even better. The students involved love meeting with older kids to hang out and improve their playing.”
Homes credits the entire community — administration, fellow teachers, directors throughout the district and parents — for her program’s success. “Our program at SEMS is amazing not just because of one person, but many,” she says. “This is a special place, and I feel lucky every day that I am here, inspiring our musicians to do their best and have fun.”