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Yellowknife Music Teacher Nominated for National Award

A Yellowknife music teacher is in the running to receive a prestigious award.

The time is drawing near for the annual 2023 MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award, and among the five nominees is Stephen Richardson from École St. Joseph School in Yellowknife.

Richardson is a K-12 music educator and passionate advocate for music in the North. He demonstrates commitment, develops community, and empowers kids to reach their full potential through music. Richardson was previously nominated for this award in 2021 and said he was quite surprised to be selected, and that receiving the nomination again this year was even more surprising.

Stephen shared how his career lead him to his current position.

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“My first teaching role was English Language Arts. I was looking for teaching jobs around Nova Scotia and Vancouver and there wasn’t many around. I started applying all over the north and Yellowknife was one of the first places that came up, so I moved up from Vancouver and I would go back on breaks, Christmas, and March Break. I started to like it more and more, so I stayed.”

While music has always been a passion for Stephen, it wasn’t quite in the way one would expect. He didn’t start playing the guitar until he was 21, opting instead to use his creative writing skills to write song lyrics and poetry. Once he did take to the strings, he became quite committed to it.

“I started buying a bunch of books, and within a month I was probably practicing six to eight to ten hours a day.”

Stephen contributes to the profession by mentoring school staff and teachers in training and brings artists touring the North through to his school for performances, workshops and Q&As. He has studied inclusive practice, mindfulness, self-regulation and brain-based research to further the effectiveness of his music pedagogy and draws pathways to success for neurodivergent students and kids with exceptionalities.

He encourages the use of technology to not only sustain music education through the challenges of the pandemic but to also help kids build skills like recording, grant writing, video production and more. He has incorporated video game music development and TikTok into his lessons, bringing his classes into a more modern mindset for today’s youths.

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Stephen shared what he enjoys the most about being able to teach music.

“Just giving the kids the opportunities I didn’t get when I was younger. We had a music teacher, Miss Garrison, for a couple years, I think Grade 5 and part of Grade 6, who got sick with cancer and passed away and then they never got another music teacher. I like just helping kids to start so young. By the time they get to Grade 12, they can be unbelievable. I have a couple of former students who have gone on to become music professors, or have taken their skills into acting.”

Stephen is a critical supporter of those students who choose to pursue a career in music and has connected many students to the NWT Music Mentorship recording grants to help them get their careers started.

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