Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Sharif-Lucas

Teacher Spotlight: Ms. Sharif-Lucas

By Santana Mitre (Sophomore), Cai Young (Freshman)

For this month’s Teacher Spotlight, the Eagle Times interviewed Ms. Sharif-Lucas. Ms. Sharif is the high school music teacher, and single handedly runs Obama’s band. Starting out at Ellis, she worked at various schools as an instrumental music teacher and marching band director before settling at Schenley High School and finally, Obama. Our conversation was spur of the moment, but covered everything from Denzel Washington to martial arts.

Santana: I know you’re a busy woman Ms. Sharif, so thank you for taking the time to chat with us today! 

Ms. Sharif: No problem! Anytime.

Cai: Great! Let’s get started with our first question. What made you want to get into music?

Ms. Sharif: I have been playing the flute since I was 8 years old. I come from divorced parents, so I was at my dad’s house one weekend, and my dad is one of those people who sees something and is like “I wanna do that!” But he doesn’t think about the process. So he wanted to play the flute like Herbie Mann [an American jazz flute player from the 1960’s], and so he bought a flute, but he didn’t realize that he actually had to do stuff with it. So it ended up in the closet. And so y’know I’m 8 years old, I’m just snooping around in the closet and I find the flute! And I’m like “Ooh dad what’s this?” and he’s like “It’s a flute, if you can make a sound out of it, you can have it.” And now I’ve been playing for over 30 years. Since then I’ve been in orchestras and bands and soloing and whatever. And high school is really when I knew I wanted to be a music teacher.

Santana: Favorite memory with band students?

Ms. Sharif: Oh, favorite memory? I have a million. There’s a lot of them, a lot of which I don’t even know is safe to talk about *laughs*. I’m serious! One of our greatest memories is when the marching band was invited to participate as the band for the movie “Fences.” And so the students got to meet Denzel Washington and everything like that. So that was one great memory, I have it on video and everything. They were like, star-struck with that! And then another memory is when we were in the National Memorial Day parade in Washington D.C, and we represented the entire Pittsburgh Public School [District] for the state of Pennsylvania. So those two are probably the most memorable things I can talk about.

Santana: Wow, I had no idea that band did all that stuff. That’s really cool! What are some things you wish your students knew about you that they don’t?

Ms. Sharif: That I am a human being! *laughs* Um, y’know a lot of times, in my experience, students don’t realize that teachers are human, that we’re people. Like teaching is what we do, but it doesn’t encompass everything like who we are as people. We have personalities, we have feelings, we have other obligations that transcend outside of the building… as far as personally, that I am a genuinely nice person. Um, I know sometimes I’m misunderstood, as I like to call it, but I am a genuinely nice person once you get to know me. 

Cai: Some students say you’re really tough, how would you respond to that?

Ms. Sharif: I’m not sure what they mean by really tough, but if they mean that I hold them accountable, then yes. I am a person that holds students accountable. And if students are doing what’s expected and they’re making sincere efforts and they try their best, then I’m not “tough,” y’know what I mean? …Do what you’re supposed to do, and do what’s expected. And I hope that it’s not looked at as a negative thing but, being tough-it’s tough love for me. Like It’s not just being mean, but it’s to hold you accountable so that you’re the best you can be. 

Santana: Who’s your teacher best friend?

Ms. Sharif: Ms.McKrell. We have the same kind of humor. We get each other, so I like her very much. 

Cai: How would you describe your sense of humor?

Ms. Sharif: Oh Lord, my sense of humor um-I am a sarcastic person. So a lot of it is laced in that. And I try to have humor that’s relatable, and also teachable moments. So if someone maybe makes a mistake, that can create a teachable moment for them and other students. I’ll make a joke to help them come to like the realization of “yeah that was a mistake, and I maybe shouldn’t do that anymore.” Or “y’know it’s not a big deal that I did it, but I’m not going to make that same mistake again.” It’s more so humor that causes people to reflect on what it is that they’re doing, and also humanizes me as a person. It helps me create rapport with students. 

Santana: I was told you do martial arts?

Ms. Sharif: I do!

Santana: When did you start?

Ms. Sharif: I started doing martial arts in 2007. So we’re talking, what, 15 years? I am currently a 4th degree blackbelt- that’s a master level. I enjoy it, I love it, I’ve competed in tournaments all over the place–locally and across the country–and I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I love it, love it, love it! 

Santana: That’s so cool!

Ms. Sharif: Yep, yep. And now I got my little son in it! So, I’m trying to pass the torch! And he’s only 6, but he’s doing it!

Santana: Ok, well, thank you so much for your time! That’s all of our questions!

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