ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — They're playing scales in the Perkins Elementary band room. For just a moment one of the notes sound a little off.
- Joel Heller is this week's A+ Teacher
- He guides students through music lessons at Perkins Elementary
- Check out previous A+ Teacher stories
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“That was just a little ... scary,” says Joel Heller, holding back a slight smile.
No reason for fear though in this fifth-grade class of new musicians. It’s quite the opposite. These kids are on the way to creating music, something Heller has been doing for years in Pinellas County.
“I am a product of Pinellas County Schools. I went to Fugate elementary, Osceola Middle School and then Largo High School,” says Heller.
For the past eight years, he has been in this band room helping kids with intonation, beats, scales and putting it all together in a final performance.
“The end goal is that they get to an appreciation of music," Heller said. It's cool because you affect so many people that way and you are really helping build a culture of music and an appreciation for it.”
Heller loves to use familiar music like the theme from Jurassic Park. It may not be perfect just yet but with practice it will be. Still, playing music is so much more than just the notes.
“You are learning responsibility. You are learning a new language. You are learning science. You are learning history," he said. "You are learning all of these academic things while you sit there playing a trumpet.”
The students are also learning how hard playing an instrument can be. It is work, but they seem to truly enjoy the way Heller connects with them.
“He's a great teacher because, number one, he has the guts to teach us how to play instruments, to play saxophone, and these are really hard instrument to learn,” says one student.
Another student chimes in, “Mr. Heller is real nice and always helps us. He is more than a teacher, he is kind of like a good friend.”
As much as these students praise Mr. Heller, he passes the compliment and credit right back to them.
“I don't like attention and I don't like the pomp and circumstances of it all. I want them to feel all the accolades," he said. "It’s never my band concert. It’s the kids concert. It’s the kids band. It’s Perkins. It is not about me.”
But at least for this day it is about Joel Heller. He is yet another example of an A+ Teacher that deserves our thanks.