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HEROES IN EDUCATION: Abbotsford band teacher runs barrier-free program

Jason Hawkins of Chief Dan George middle school believes music is for everyone
Chief Dan George middle school band teacher Jason Hawkins has been named one of the community’s Heroes in Education. (John Morrow/Abbotsford News)

The Abbotsford News is honoured to profile 2023 “Heroes in Education” from a long and amazing list of nominees sent to us by our readers. “Heroes in Education” is graciously sponsored by Abbotsford School District, University of the Fraser Valley, City of Abbotsford, Easy Build Structures, Curtis Tire & Wheel, Kafka Denture Clinic and 5 Corners Furniture.

As Jason Hawkins was sitting behind the wheel of a concrete truck, he knew deep down this wasn’t the ideal career choice.

He wanted to pursue a higher education and teaching seemed to be the right fit.

“I think it is safe to say that I had a passion and skill set that was not being utilized behind the wheel of a truck,” Hawkins said.

In 2015, he switched careers and became a teacher. He is currently the band teacher and guidance counsellor at Abbotsford’s Chief Dan George Middle School.

He believes that any student whlo enjoys music can become part of the band program

“Anyone can join at any time. I have kids that have played piano for seven years and I’ve got kids who have never touched an instrument in their lives. I like to run a barrier-free program,” he said.

Hawkins taught himself to play guitar in his early 20s and didn’t learn to read music until he was 23.

“I believe any kid can do it, given the opportunity, so I don’t let the experience level get in the way.”


Another barrier is cost and Hawkins is always on the lookout to find instruments in the community for families who can’t afford them.

Josephine Leonard, a parent of one of Hawkins’ students, nominated him as a Hero of Education, stating he “appears to have no boundaries as to what he wouldn’t do for the school community,” adding he has “a deep and genuine passion to see his students succeed.”

During the pandemic, Leonard says Hawkins “stretched himself thin often to make sure that he is available to support students, and continuously looks out for the mental health of the school community. He is always available and ready to offer his assistance.”

She also noted that he devotes his time to help raise funds for band trips and other activities.

While he admits that the job does sometimes spill over into his free time, Hawkins simply loves what he does.

“There are certain things that really feed me when doing my work. Do I do it because I love hearing 30 clarinets screeching at me at once? Absolutely not. But do I do it because I get to see the journey from 30 screeching clarinets to a competent band making music and not just organized sound. Watching the look on kids’ faces when they recognize how much they’ve grown – that’s really neat and exciting to me.”

On the counselling side, he said he knows what it’s like for a lot of the students to feel unsupported or to be living, at a young age, in some form of turmoil.

“I can’t snap my fingers and change a kid’s life. What I can do is provide some support and hopefully plant some seeds that will come to fruition later in life.”

On occasion, Hawkins’ skills as a counsellor and as a band teacher blend together.

He is often in a room with 40 to 70 band students at one time, and if they are preparing for a concert, that number can rise to 120. Hawkins said it is vital to keep the students focused.

“Using entertainment skills to keep kids engaged and on the same page is important. You also have to build up trust,” he explained, adding the students need to feel comfortable performing in front of crowds of up to 1,100 people.

And watching his students perform makes all the work worth it.

Kevin Mills

About the Author: Kevin Mills

I have been a member of the media for the past 35 years and became editor of the Mission Record in February of 2015.
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