by Clarissa Rodriguez and Kazzandra Ysabel Baysa

The spotlight fell upon the majestic, jet black instrument, its keys glimmering and contrasting as his eyes wandered over its 52 white keys and 36 black keys.

It was calling him.

He breathed as his quiet footsteps approached the velvet-wrapped bench, he straightened his back as he took a seat and marvelled over the beauty of the piano. Alas, his finger hovers over a plain key – curious. What does this do? He tilted his head sidewards as he hesitantly pressed the button, and in an instant, a quiet chime filled his empty black room.

It only lasted for a second, but it was serene, it was soft, it was beautiful.

Light footsteps echoed louder than any discordant tune made by dozens of other shadows that filled what was once empty. And now the spotlight falls on him, his blonde hair becoming a golden haze against the blazing light. In his fair hand he held his piece of 17 notes, 17 colors, 17 sustainable goals. He smiles a small smile as silence envelops the room. A pause, rest being reached as the students read the piece he has presented.

And he teaches, with each sway of his hand, with each wave of his baton the shadows – the students – follow along his masterpiece.

And he speaks, his voice trusting, his tone friendly – a beautiful sound, a break from the neutrality. And in his stance he was recognized, a Global Teacher Prize finalist – a true maestro. But most of all, he is a musician, he is a conductor that leads his students – he is Mark Reid, and with his guiding hands, he upholds the SDGs for a brighter future. 


 “I had a really special experience that money can’t buy.”

Reid was nominated for the Global Teacher Prize (GTP) in 2015. It is an annual recognition for a teacher who has made a commendable contribution to our inquisitive society. That time, Reid made it to the final 50.

Although he did not win the top prize, at the back of his mind, a one-million dollar award from the Varkey Foundation was just a riff and run to the melody he has scrupulously composed. For the true beauty of this award was how he found a way into the secret places of the passion of his students.

Together with 99 teachers who are also passionate in their distinctive profession as ‘15 and ‘16 GTP finalists – a forte note hit him.

He has to bring his students together… to connect them to the world.

GTP has established a network for him to have friends all around the world. When they talked about Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), Reid said, “Maybe that’s for Social Studies teachers, not for me.” Then he realized, it is actually for everybody.

Music can be heard by all ears, the way feelings can be felt by all hearts.

Aside from being a District Resource Teacher at the Vancouver School Board, a Certified Trainer for Google, an owner of Carpe Ictus Music and a part of an adjunct faculty in Vandercook College of Music, it is now his honor to become a Teach SDGs Ambassador. 

With each dot, with each mark, with each line, with each shape; from them came progress until, alas, the maestro recorded his masterpiece. And from his masterpiece came learning, with learning came recognition, and now, with recognition came responsibility.


“We are making music for the purpose of making better people.”

Over the last five years, GTP let Reid realize that SDGs could be applied to all subject areas. From the moment we wake up until we get to sleep, we are connected to all of those 17 SDGs. Goals are extremely fundamental since they are vigorous advocacy platforms to end poverty and secure a safe place where all people can enjoy prosperity and peace. Goals that would allow Reid to reach students – citizens – with music.

But out of all the 17 SDGs, Reid would consider that the most progressed and most important was the last one – Partnerships for the Goals. Try to look at how it is attached to every other one. Just like how the left hand plays the chords while the right hand plays the melody, we are also working as one for sustainability.

“We are interconnected. We do not need to feel isolated.”

For instance, having partners in other countries accelerates the progression of  SDGs. Reid and his colleagues in Estonia, Kenya and the US came up with a goal: to reach out to their fellows to look at the SDGs.

“We believe that the goals are only most effective if they’re seen and understood at all possible contexts.”

And to make it more exciting, they use music to connect to the students and colleagues to further develop sustainability.

Thus they connect the way notes follow each other in harmony; and thus they continue, the way hands chase each other when fingers play the piano; and thus they teach, the way a conductor waves his baton in guidance – and the students follow, the way musicians tread along the path paved by their maestro.


Problems are everywhere, but they are especially common particularly for someone who travels and meets new faces, who reads new eyes, who guides hands of different shades – for someone whose ears hear different voices, and whose mind interprets varying languages – problems are inevitable.

But if problems are written down in each note, solutions are always just between the lines, one must only learn to read them.

We look into the problem and we think about solutions.”

For Reid, the challenge he faces lies within people that he just met. Talking to someone for the first time is a bit challenging. But all it takes is an open mind and common ground. To build that ground, he tries to discover similarities through a comfortable conversation. And it is through meaningful communication that a strong foundation is formed, a foundation that enables people to explore things that are seen differently, things that have been taught in varying manners, and are applied in diverse ways as well.

By understanding each other’s perspectives, learning occurs; and it is through that learning that Reid is able to uphold the SDGs. But no matter how important the SDGs are, not everyone sees it as is. Those 17 goals are for everybody, but right now, not a lot of students find them exciting, which hinders their growth.

Sometimes, it’s a headache, something that is hard to understand. But Reid decided to make it less stressful, easier, and more accessible to be more successful. And the way he provided for his students is a path paved by music itself.

Utilizing various techniques and projects, Reid made use of his musicianship program and purpose-built music theory in teaching and upholding the goals. These kinds of efforts are important, because along with his 250 Canadian colleagues, they did not only teach the youth concepts, but they also gave skills and information that became more relevant over time.

They prioritized the growth of their students, an action that has taught Reid a great deal when he first started teaching, because then he had to pick.

The reputation of the private school where he was teaching, or the development of the students he was handling?

It was difficult, he was stuck between the two options he was presented with. But in the end, after much thinking, he chose to prioritize his students. He quit teaching in that school. For a while, he was lost, confused with his role and priorities, but he stood up and found himself once more, establishing what he believed and what he wanted to be.

“Competition is precisely the wrong priority. To nurture equity first is to prioritize a fair basis for competition.”

What matters is not their achievements nor the awards they get from competitions. It is the knowledge that they gained and how they applied it in their lives. Students study not just to get high grades and ace tests; students study to prepare themselves in becoming responsible citizens.


“Sometimes, I think that the Philippines chose me rather than me choosing the Philippines. The Philippines is my family.”

It started as a professional connection through GTP; then it became a very close friendship with Filipino GTP nominees: Francis Jim Tuscano (Xavier School, Manila); Dr. Jesus Insilada (Caninguan National High School, Iloilo) and Ryan Homan (San Jose Elementary School, Sorsogon).

Reid and Homan started to work really closely together in 2018 and it has been very exciting for Reid to get to know him, to get to know the community of teachers. Little did they know that their expected meeting will result in their unexpected friendship and unbreakable bond.

Homan invited Reid to go to an event in Bicol. There, he found out that they had a lot in common. One of them was to elevate their whole communities, so they had a sense of belongingness to work together.

Reid and Homan decided to launch a collaborative project entitled, “FIL-CAN Free Little Libraries Initiative,” which bagged an SDG Action Award. They envisioned creating library access resources in societies which did not have an existing library. They are glad how this project connects parents and students by expanding their knowledge through reading.

What we do in our classroom is just as important as what we do in our community and other parts of the world.”

During his visit in the Philippines, Reid also met the 800 teachers and 150 principals and school heads in Quezon City which led him to have so much time to be connected to many Filipino educators.

Reid also had the chance to visit the Philippine Normal University (PNU) and meet a global citizenship education supporter, Dr. Bert Tuga, who is now the President of PNU. Having the same advocacy, they had a fruitful interaction, sharing amazing insights with each other. Through him, he understood how the teachers were trained and how they became teachers.


“More than wanting to go to more countries, what I really want is to have more impact.”

A symphony cannot be played alone, it needs its musicians and maestro – it needs its harmonic orchestra to let loose of its lullaby.

Given all of his accomplishments, Reid still has a lot of work lined up for him in the future. He plans to give more advice for any music or SDG-related projects; to be part of a group which is working to get the project to happen, and; to have stronger collaboration with US, Canada, Kenya, Australia and especially the Philippines.

To seize relational pedagogy into instructional practice, to exemplify student leadership strategies, to conduct strategic management and to hone values for students’ voice, Reid will open an online course for MECA Summer 2020 which is entitled, “Relational Pedagogy: Community, Culture & Leadership in Your Program,” from June 8, 2020 to July 31, 2020.

His masterpiece was in their hands now. Alas he waves his baton, reaching beyond the struggles, beyond the differences, beyond the confusion.

He reached beyond, and then came music; orchestrated, harmonic, and melodic music. They followed, and then came progress; inclusive, thorough, and united progress.

They followed, they reached, and they went beyond.

And the symphony continued.

All seventeen notes were played, but there’s still much to do.

So he heads to the next room, another room with hungry eyes and confused tones. And he smiles as silence envelops the room once more.

He speaks, voice trusting, tone friendly – a beautiful sound, another break from the neutrality. And in his stance he can be recognized – He is Mark Reid, a Teach SDGs Ambassador – a true maestro. He is a musician, he is a conductor, and he will put a spark in the eyes of his dimmed students, with his masterpiece and all 17 goals.

So he sways his baton again. All 17 notes progressing towards the completion of all 17 goals.


  1. “What we do in our classroom is just as important as what we do in our community and other parts of the world.”“What we do in our classroom is just as important as what we do in our community and other parts of the world.”
    Yes! As teachers we really play important roles to our students as well as to the community where they belong. We are a great factor!

  2. true teachers really play an important role in everyone’s life, what they are today is because of what guidance we give to them.
    kudos kassandra and clarissa

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