When Rebekah Sharpe was a young girl growing up in nearby Cleveland Heights, she knew that she wanted to be a teacher. Today, she is in her third year of teaching choir, honors choir, 8th grade orchestra (she co-teaches with Nicole Clouser) and directing plays and musicals at Shaker Heights Middle School. This is her second teaching position and one that she says has taught her an important lesson: the essential role that she and her colleagues play in supporting students and allowing them to be who they are so that they can become strong men and women.
Ms. Sharpe is a 2006 graduate of Cleveland Heights High School who earned her undergraduate degree from Capital University and her masters in music education at Kent State University. She is currently working on her second master’s degree in educational leadership at the University of Cincinnati.
Read more about Ms. Sharpe in our Employee Spotlight.
What was your first teaching position and what did you learn from it?
I taught music appreciation and choir at an inner city high school in Columbus for five years. My biggest takeaway from that experience is that relationships are everything. I learned that kids can go through so much outside of school and teachers just don’t know what they’re going through unless we ask. I remember as student I had who was a handful—he was late all the time, he was disruptive and it frustrated me. So I invited him to lunch in my classroom one day and I learned that he had a child who was two years old and he was supporting himself and a younger sibling. He was 17 years old, raising two kids and working the night shift. So I tried to be more supportive and I talked to his other teachers. I know that if I didn’t ask, he never would have said anything.
What do you like about teaching in Shaker?
Shaker is a community that supports the arts and it shows in the students that I teach. It’s great that there are students who have private lessons or are involved in theater groups. And I’ve found that no matter the socio-economic status, parents in Shaker appreciate the opportunity for their kids to be a part of the arts.
What’s your favorite piece to perform?
My favorite performance that I’ve seen is Marie and Rosetta at Playhouse Square. It was this awesome combination of gospel, jazz and blues. I loved it because the main characters were strong women at a time when it was hard for women to be recognized. It’s my favorite thing I’ve seen.
My favorite piece to perform is a cantata called Carmina Burana. It’s this mass work that I sang my freshman year in college at Capital University. It was so tough that I considered changing my major altogether. But singing that piece showed me that music is what I want to do. It was extremely hard to learn, but it was so rewarding once I mastered it.
How do you teach music within the IB framework?
At the base of IB is student-centered learning and creating students who are global citizens. That’s what any teacher wants to instill in her students—it’s no different in music than it is in any other subject. So when you think about it from that perspective, teaching within the boundaries of IB becomes easier. For me, IB has made me a better teacher. I think it’s one of the absolute best things about shaker. I have total buy-in to Shaker. There’s just something special and unique here that you can’t get anywhere else.