Friday 14 April 2017

Bethany Briones: an Exemplar in Education

The Edwin Parr Teacher Award was established in 1964 by the Alberta School Trustees’ Association. This award is presented annually to a first-year teacher who exemplifies dedication to students, as exemplified by Edwin Parr, an educator and community leader. Each education zone in Alberta brings forward their own representative, and for this year, Edmonton Public Schools (EPSB) has selected, out of four first year EPSB teacher finalists, Bethany Briones.

Bethany is a Grade 1 teacher at Ormsby School. She is cited by senior administration as a teacher who strives to provide the best possible learning environment and experience for their students, developing strategies that can be adapted to meet all of the learning levels and styles in the classroom. What is distinct with Bethany is her use of art and music when adapting to students’ learning styles - the use of visual, auditory and kinesthetic learning. She incorporates music into her classroom routines & leads the class in a morning song which offers a special time to showcase each student and their gifts. She took a leadership role with the school’s music program - organizing the handbell choir and leading them in performances. She has also accompanied the choir on the piano, inspiring students to learn the piano, and eventually offering free after-school piano lessons to disadvantaged students.

Bethany is the daughter of Paul and Maria Allen Briones. We have known this family since our first year in Canada more than a decade ago. When we established our dance company, Chameleon Dance Edmonton, Bethany was one of our original dancers. She was the youngest and probably the gutsiest. She had no qualms and no inhibitions traversing unknown territory and the discipline we demanded on our dancers. As I got to know her, I realize that this is her pattern and approach to all her challenges and adventures.
Edmonton Public Schools Awarding

Bethany is a dutiful daughter. It was due to her parents’ prodding that she studied piano at the age of 5, and later on, guitar lessons and dance classes with Chameleon. She was also active in school sports, leadership activities, volunteer work and church activities. In all these endeavours, she would throw herself 100%, challenged into overcoming difficulties, and recognizing that one can achieve anything with determination and hard work. She was awarded the Superintendent’s Award in Gr. 9 and a Rotary scholarship in Gr. 12.

Bethany’s servant leadership revolves around education and the church. Even as a young girl, she had always wanted to be a teacher, working with children and being instrumental in providing them a better life and opportunities for growth. She recognizes the importance of a good foundation brought about by a strong family unit and faith in God, as exemplified by her own family. She also acknowledges that not everyone is fortunate enough to have this. It is interesting to note that, even though Bethany dabbled into the arts as a form of recreation, and she does not consider herself first and foremost an artist, her distinct mode of service and giving back is music and dance. As she had found enjoyment and life lessons on discipline with piano and dance, she shared these when she assisted school and church choir and band performances, and choreographed the school musical as a student. Now as a teacher, she is providing students who would have no way of affording piano lessons, a safe space, an alternative form of expression and recreation, and inspiration and motivation to achieve more. She has shown leadership and initiative by partnering with Alberta Music Education Foundation in providing keyboards to her students.

Bethany with her parents, Paul and Allen Briones
Bethany is just on her first-year of teaching and has shown compassionate and enthusiastic leadership. One that is honed by strong family love and support, divine faith and a quest to make life better for herself and for others. Whether or not she is handed the Edwin Parr Award later this year, she is an exemplar as a daughter, a student and a teacher. Ever heard the phrase that one lives up to the meaning of one’s name? I looked up the meaning of Bethany and came up with “house of song” and “daughter of the Lord”.

This article was published in the April 2017 issue of the Alberta Filipino Journal.