Melissa Salguero named finalst for $1 million teacher prize

Melissa (front, r) celebrates being named a finalist with the PS 48 band with trumpet in hand.
Courtesy of Melissa Salguero

She’s definitely the borough’s foremost musical educator, but now Melissa Salguero is gaining a worldwide reputation.

The maestro of P.S. 48 at 1290 Spofford Avenue in Hunts Point has been nominated for the ‘Varkey Foundation’s Global Teacher Prize’ and its rather impressive $1 million grant.

The Global Teacher Prize is one of the most prestigious education awards presented in the world.

Salguero and nine other finalists have been selected from over 10,000 nominations and applications from 179 countries around the world, to put it in perspective.

She’s also the only American to be a 2019 finalist and also the first music educator to do so as well.

Salguero will be traveling to Dubai, UAE from St. Patrick’s Day to at least Sunday, March 24 to learn who will win the million-dollar grant.

Her approach to education through music is an unorthodox, yet very well received one by her ensemble of students.

From turning carrots into wind instruments (one of her personal favorite approaches), to configuring things like Xbox controllers and bananas into electronic keyboards, and most lately concocting a drum that makes pepper flakes vibrate are just some examples of how she allows creativity to shine through her teaching methods, making sound waves become tangible.

She was even honored at the 2018 Grammy Awards as Music Educator of the Year and appeared on Ellen in 2014, although Salguero speculated that the ceremony in Dubai could rival her trip to the Grammys.

When Salguero handled the lengthy application for the Global Teacher Prize, it made her reflect on a lengthy and illustrious career in music education.

The Bronx portion of her journey began just under a decade ago, P.S. 48 was much more quiet then and Salguero was walking door to door with resumes in hand, commuting from Bridgeport, CT.

After landing a job in the instrument-less Hunts Point school, Salguero essentially built the music program from the ground up.

“Before we had instruments I knew I had to build trust with the kids,” said Salguero.

“It started with me playing Don’t Stop Believing on my guitar during the first day and then the kids just took over,” she added.

Journey-forward to 2019 and that school has one of the most renowned music programs in the city, let alone the Bronx.

“My students come in an hour before school for band now,” Salguero said, noting that the school battled with attendance issues but since the music program took off those numbers have improved greatly.

During her own adolescent period Salguero struggled with academic subjects as she battled with dyslexia. When she joined her own high school band it gave Salguero a bold sense of accomplishment she hadn’t felt before.

“Music has saved my life,” she said.

Since Salguero’s ambition to teach has put her in the national spotlight a multitude of times, it opened her eyes to the opportunities that could come.

“The vision gets broader and broader,” she said.

More than reaching out and touching the lives of students, what Salguero aims to do now is touch the lives of music educators, which will inadvertently end up reaching more students as well.

“Every school should have music,” Salguero said.

To watch her finalist announcment, click here:

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