Dee Shaw

  • Title: Arts Department Head
  • School: Essex District High School
  • Location: Essex, Ontario
  • Grades: 9-12
  • Instruments: French Horn

Our Music Teacher of the Month is Dee Shaw. Congratulations! Shaw was nominated by a former student. She's the Arts Department Head at Essex District High School. She also plays the French horn!

Tell us a little bit about yourself. Who nominated you? How long have you been teaching?

A former student of mine nominated me for this. It was a bit of a surprise. I started teaching in 2001 and got a job in Brampton at Heart Lake Secondary School straight out of teachers college. I taught computer science, classical guitar, junior band, and arranged and wrote music for a show for the school that I also ended up directing. I got a job at Essex District High School in 2005 and taught Grade 9-12 music with a concert band, jazz band, and musicals every other year.

I’ve taken my students on many different trips to cities including Chicago, New York, and Montreal, and competed in MusicFest almost every year for a while. I joined the Canadian Armed Forces as a musician when I was still in high school and I am still a part of that. I have traveled to many cool places and made many great friends.

In 2012 I started a community band called the Essex Community Concert Band to give my students a place to play when they left high school, and it has continued to grow since then. I have gained a much bigger following than I ever expected to with that group, but it’s a lot of fun with a lot of great people and it’s cool to be able to share music with the Windsor-Essex County community alongside former students and friends/family.

What has music and/or teaching taught you?

Pushing students outside of their comfort zone and holding them accountable for their learning and behavior is the best way to prepare them for future difficulties that they might encounter, and will help them gain the skills they need to be able to persevere as well as be effective in a team/ensemble environment. It is beneficial to them even if it makes them uncomfortable.

Teaching music is about more than just teaching music- it’s about helping my students grow as people and be good humans, as well as become successful in their post-secondary endeavors whether it’s music or something else.

What types of music or instruments are your favorites to teach?

I love teaching all band instruments because I get to watch the progress that all of my students make and watch them become great people and celebrate their accomplishments with them at the end of the year and when they graduate. Concert band music is definitely my preferred type of music to teach.

What is your favorite type of music to play?

Any concert band or wind ensemble music. Hounds of Spring is one of my favorite ensemble pieces - go French horn!

What do you like to do for fun? Do you have any hobbies?

I enjoy running and weightlifting. I’ve done different types of competitions - marathons, half-ironman, bodybuilding, etc. It’s a good way to blow off steam and manage stress.

What advice would you give music teachers just starting out?

Try hard at what you do. Work hard, and don’t take yourself too seriously. If you need help, ask for it. Continue to learn and practice your craft because that will be beneficial to your students - you can only teach as well as the effort you put into your job.

Lastly, lead by example. Show your students what it looks like to be a good musician, even if they aren’t going to school for it, and show them what it looks like to have fun while doing it.

What’s the one piece of advice you’d give to all music students if you could?

Take the time to practice - it does not have to be for long hours, it can be as much as 10 minutes a day. Keep playing, keep showing up, and keep trying.

Anybody can do it, they need to just buckle down and put in the effort. The effort that you put into your own musicianship doesn’t only reflect on you, it also reflects on the ensembles you perform in. Always strive to be better.