The music teacher at Auckland’s Kristin School for the past three years and composer says it takes some special traits to be an effective and influential music teacher.
“Good teachers especially in the arts need to leave their egos at the school gate,” Ah Sam says.
“I see teachers around who are amazing and genuine without the issues that having a big ego has.
“Some teachers let their ego stop them from doing what is necessarily good for their students or for their music department.”
Caring for all students is essential, as is being good at playing your instrument of choice.
“Kids in music can get inspired by what the teacher says, but they get more inspired by what they see the teacher can do, as in walk - the talk.
“I was inspired by teachers who I used to watch give fun and awesome performances - it made me want to go home and practice.”
Lastly - music teachers need to get over their cultural negativities, he adds.
Ah Sam gets frustrated when he hears a music teacher blame a kid for being bad at music theory because they're Maori or Pacific Islander.
“The truth is all kids dislike music theory until you convince them to love it and see their value, so teachers who teach a certain way because they think their students cultural background and identity affects them, they need to get some professional training around that - or get a new profession.”
Music and education have pulsed through Ah Sam’s blood throughout his life.
“I never had a backup plan if I wasn't doing music - it was always going to be something to do with music, and nothing else.
“So if I wasn't teaching, performing and composing music, I'd be teaching, performing and composing music,” Ah Sam quips.
Becoming a music teacher was a natural progression and journey in life through music, he adds.
Ah Sam’s grandfather was a teacher, his mother was a teacher and principal and Education Review Office (ERO) inspector - so education has been something he has always been around.
“My mother (Apulu Le'emo Ah Sam) is my inspiration in terms of teaching,” he says.
“She was a tough teacher and principal facing lots of challenges as a female teacher and principal in Samoa and then New Zealand.
“She dealt with challenges very strongly and well. I always admired that.”
It is Ah Sam’s third year teaching at Kristin School, and it has been an enjoyable journey so far.
“When I first started at Kristin, I met the best boss I have ever had in any job.”
Adam Heath has helped Ah Sam to refocus and he has inspired him to think about education and relationships with colleagues and students in a really positive manner, Ah Sam says.
Throughout his years teaching, technology has become more and more integrated in the classroom.
It changes some of the things he has to be aware of - and things to teach and accept, he says.
“I think technology has been both positive and negative to music education - positive because of the many tools we have to compose and record music and negative in that I think it makes kids a little lazy to learn the core elements of music education.”
Ah Sam knows how much joy and satisfaction comes from both playing and listening to music.
Watching students discover the joy of music and understanding the power of music in their hands to help others is the most rewarding part of his job, Ah Sam says.
“I want my music to help others, and I try to teach my students that.”