In Lake View, Chicago, one music teacher recently got a wonderful recognition of her work. Puja Ramaswamy was in the middle of giving class when two men arrived, along with members of the press, to present to her the Golden Apple Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Ramaswamy has always encouraged her students to connect their own experiences to their music studies. In 2020, when upset and saddened citizens were protesting the murder of George Floyd, she came up with a lesson plan involving around the history of protest music.
“There was this intense issue happening in society that just wasn’t being talked about in classes, so I wanted to find a way to address this with music”– Puja Ramaswamy
She directed her students to think about the value of protest music, to think about issues they felt strongly about and to find music that related to those issues. Students came back with music about Black Lives Matter, immigration, refugees, gender equality and more.
“When you know someone is aware of what they’re doing and passionate about it, you feel that energy. That’s what you get from Ms. Ramaswamy” one of the students said about their teacher.