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F I N A L E X A M 60 Professionally Speaking | December 2016 Describe yourself in elementary school. Easily distracted. Describe yourself in high school. In Grade 9, I was busy trying to be cool. In Grade 10, I found myself — football and track had a lot to do with it. Most influential teacher? My Grade 4 teacher, Ms. Toner, inspired me to do public speaking and taught me that it's OK to be nervous in front of people. Ms. Hickey, my Grade 6 teacher, taught me creative writing. I put the public speaking and writing together, and started making songs. Any memorable assignments? In Grade 11, we were asked to write original characters for Lord of the Rings. I remember spending the entire weekend working on it. At first, the teacher didn't believe I wrote it. I got an A+. PHOTO: CHE KOTHARI Who is your hero? Chuck D from Public Enemy is very in- spiring. He's awesome onstage as well as off. He's like a big brother. He wrote the foreward for my book, Stick to Your Vision. As a student, what career path did you dream of following? Football player and rapper. What do you wish you had been taught in school but weren't? It would have been good to have been taught more cultural stuff on black history, but I learned to be independent. Formal education is your base — then you need to take the initiative to learn on your own. Favourite way to spend recess? In elementary, it was wrestling in the schoolyard. In high school, it was rhym- ing and beat-boxing. Fondest school-related memory? Performing at the high school dance. Strobe lights were big back then! The thing I learned in school that still applies to my life today is … Be compassionate to people. Your most memorable teacher? Mr. Ken Wilson, OCT, my Grade 2 & 3 teacher. He was a good dude. He made school and learning fun. I bumped into him again seven years ago. He looked at me and said: "Wesley Williams! I knew you were the Maestro!" I literally picked him up — it was like a scene from a movie. How has your educational experience informed your role on Mr. D? Playing a teacher is cool but being a par- ent and having my son in school makes me truly appreciate what real teachers have to deal with. PS THE VISIONARY Hip-hop pioneer Wes Williams (a.k.a. Maestro Fresh Wes) freestyles on how his education has shaped his art. BY LAURA BICKLE NAME: Wes Williams • Born March 31, 1968, in Toronto; the eldest of three children of Guyanese immigrants • Attended Shaughnessy PS (K–Grade 3), St. Timothy Catholic School (Grade 4), Our Lady of Good Counsel School (Grades 5–8), Senator O'Connor College School (Grades 9–12) & L'Amoreaux CI (Grade 13), all in Toronto • Went to Carleton University for one year, then left to pursue music full time • "Let Your Backbone Slide" was the first Canadian hip-hop single to go gold; it won Best Rap Video at the 1990 MuchMusic Video Awards • Won the 1991 Rap Recording of the Year JUNO for his Symphony in Effect album; was the first hip-hop artist to perform at the JUNO Awards; received the Pioneer Award at the 1998 Canadian Urban Music Awards • Began acting in 2000; nominated for a 2009 Gemini Award for his role in The Line • His self-help memoir Stick to Your Vision: How to Get Past the Hurdles & Haters to Get Where You Want to Be, was shortlisted for the 2010 Forest of Reading — White Pine Award • Joined the cast of the CBC comedy Mr. D in 2012; plays teacher Paul Dwyer • Ranked No. 1 on CBC 2013 Music's list of the 25 greatest Canadian rappers • Released his "I Can't Breathe" single in 2015; inspired by Eric Garner's death in the United States • Is a motivational speaker who regularly visits schools and has done a TEDx talk

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