Ms. Barnes: The Glue of Sahuaro


Nousha Aldhefery, Associate Editor In Chief

For the years I’ve known Ms. Barnes, she has always graced the fine arts building with compassion, strength, and creativeness. Before the world shifted, if you were to enter Ms. Barnes’ classroom, Ms. Barnes would greet you as you enter. If you’re going through a hard time, she checks on you. She is the empathy and core of Fine Arts.  Advocating for mental health, creating life through music, and demonstrating how the community really helps, Ms. Barnes is the wonder of the classroom.

Ms. Barnes with her son.

Ms. Barnes became a choral teacher after her transition from being a band nerd. “I was playing the piano for the jazz band, when the director asked me to play piano for the Jubileers.” The Jubileers is a Palo Verde Choir group widely known throughout Tucson. She recalls who inspired her: “Tom Patrick.  He was so enthusiastic about life. He drew people in, he was so upbeat. After years of band, I was almost in every choir. When I got into music, I chose choral music over others because of him.”

Ms. Barnes recalls her first day around Sahuaro as nerve-racking. She was excited to meet the kids, make connections, and bring together others through joy. She says, “My favorite part of the day is always the students.” It’s become apparent that her students mean the most to her. “It’s their energies and personalities. Who they are and what they bring to the classroom. Getting to know my students are my favorite thing.”

With this great teaching of students, Ms. Barnes is one of the biggest advocates around Sahuaro regarding mental health and self-care. As someone who’s had Ms. Barnes for four years in the classroom, it’s the right place to speak your mind. Throughout the year, Ms. Barnes checks up on her students, talks to them, and does everything she can to keep them on the right track. This has taught her to check up on herself as well, as she struggles with mental health issues.

The thing with Ms. Barnes is that not only does she advocate for her students, but she relates on a personal level of what it’s like to be in their position. She’s very open about her mental health, making the scene of expressing your emotions safe. She says that the biggest struggle for her this year was the isolation and separation. “As teachers, we hone our skills over years and years of practice for in-person teaching. We hone these skills to read people and teach them, suddenly we had this whole new venue that took away that skill and ability.”

However, she shares the way she’s been overcoming these struggles. “One of the biggest things is connecting with people. Trying to make sure that I actually make myself connect with people.” She mentions that when she gets depressed, she goes into this cave of isolation. “The most important thing is to get out there and call at least one person.” She states that she tells herself, she’s going to do one productive thing every day, whether that’s grade papers or make her bed.

The last thing Ms. Barnes said in this interview was, “I care about students and I want students to reach out if they’re struggling.” That’s the greatest teaching skill to acquire. Knowing your students, giving them a chance, and not giving up on them. This is something Ms. Barnes has done so many times, and she’s helped a lot of kids through that. I know because I was one of those kids.