Laughing and smiling from behind a mask, Grade 7 student Tram Nguyen appeared at ease in a piano lesson during recess.

Nguyen arrived from Vietnam last year and started at Mitchell Woods Public School in Guelph in September.

It took only a few private sessions before Nguyen became comfortable at her new school thanks her music teacher Kelly Stronach.

"I just like piano and just learning with Ms. Stronach," said Nguyen.

Stronach is one of five music teachers in Canada nominated for MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award.

On the charity's website it says MusiCounts "recognizes an inspirational Canadian music educator's impact on students and music education."

The five nominees include:

  • Jewel Casselman - Lakewood School, Winnipeg, MB
  • Darren Hamilton - David Suzuki Secondary School, Brampton, ON
  • Sophie Jalbert - École Roy-Joly, Rivière-du-Loup, QC
  • Kelly Stronach - Mitchell Woods Public School, Guelph, ON
  • Janell Toews - Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy, Canmore, AB

"We're really looking at teachers who go above and beyond to make music happen for their school," said Nick Godsoe, manager of programs and education at MusiCounts.

"We're looking for teachers who are adaptable, who are changing with the times to meet the evolving needs of the students at their school."

The principal at Mitchel Woods Public School said Stronach helps students tune in to the importance of inclusivity and equality.

"She uses music to enrich the lives of children who maybe wouldln't have that opportunity outside the school system," said principal Mair Gault.

Stronach provides private lessons at recess to any student or groups who want a safe space.

"You can see a different side of them," said Stronach. "It gives them a chance to sort of drop their guard a little bit, be a little bit more themselves and having fun doing something. There's less pressure on them."

Students told CTV News Stronach's approach helps break down all kinds of barriers.

"We all come together and play, and it does matter because it all sounds good and we get along," said Grade 8 student Natalija Jalicic.

"How we are all the same and we all like matter," added classmate Preston Cronk. "She really makes us feel valued I think."

While all the students at Mitchell Woods Public say Stronach makes them feel united, Nguyen told CTV through a translator that Stronach's lessons make her feel happy to be in the school community.

The winner of the MusiCounts Teacher of the Year Award will be announced on May15 at the Juno Awards.