NAILS recently caught up with devoted and dynamic instructor Mekisha banks. Find out how she infuses her lessons with humor and compassion to keep her students on point and motivated.
What’s your background as a nail tech?
My background as a nail technician started at home after I finished my program, as I didn't have many clients (and most of them consisted of my family). Then I branched off into a hair salon as I started to see my clientele build up.
Where and how did you become an instructor?
I was a nail technician for roughly six years before I started my journey as an instructor/educator. I'm currently teaching at Body Pro Beauty in Toronto, Canada. I responded to an ad online looking for instructors for the Hair and Aesthetics programs, so I submitted my resume online and also dropped by the school and was floored by the ambience and beauty of the place. When I dropped off my resume, I spoke to the director of the school, and that made me super nervous because this was a new venture for me and I had no idea if I was qualified or not. However, we set a date for me to do my interview, and the feedback was that I impressed them with my attention to detail and the easy understanding of my mock lesson, which would be very beneficial to a beginning student. After that day, I went through intense training, and here I am today!
Why did you decide to become an instructor?
While studying in the nail technician program at the community college in my town, I realized my professors didn't really supply me with the inspiration I was expecting because they were very simple with their artistic skills. Other than that, I actually had not thought much about teaching or given any thought to being an instructor; the ad just somehow fell into my lap and it sounded like an amazing opportunity. But I did feel there was a lot of information that I gathered over the years that would be very beneficial to other nail techs in the industry if they knew about it ahead of time. While servicing so many clients, I saw the lack of knowledge they had regarding what was used on their nails by other technicians, and it was very frustrating because many of my new clients were paying ridiculous prices for bad quality products and/or services.
What’s unique about your teaching style?
What I find to be unique about my teaching style is how I can make anything fun: Whether it’s anatomy or disorders, I will always find the fun in every part of the course. There are so many things we have to know about nails before we get to do the fun stuff, so I don't want anyone to lose interest. What I love doing before any lesson is to find out what are their experiences, concerns, or thoughts on the subject we're covering. This really helps to break the ice and have an open discussion, as many already feel intimidated or overwhelmed.
What’s your favorite lesson to teach and why?
My two favorite topics are business and nail design. I feel it is very important to let aspiring nail techs know of the multitude of options available. Believe it or not, many beginners feel that they must be in the industry for at least 10 years in order to be an educator or brand representative, when really it’s about their core knowledge of the brand or product. Nail design gives me a different kind of satisfaction; seeing your students grasp a concept or technique is like seeing your baby take her first steps. Nail design is based on someone's taste for art. It doesn’t all have to be the same; it just has to be you.
What is your least favorite aspect of teaching?
The hardest part of any instructor’s life is teaching an old dog new tricks! No matter how much you try, those students find some way of putting up a road block for themselves, which ultimately hinders their growth.
How much time do you spend outside of the classroom preparing lessons?
Not very much. It becomes very repetitive, as the content in the textbook is the standard information they must know. But when the nail design portion of the course comes up, I spend quite a bit of time preparing samples of art so that they have a vision prior to the demo.
What are some of your specific teaching tips for other instructors?
First and foremost, have a passion for what you’re teaching, see the value in what is being taught, and deliver it with love. If not, the students will not receive the content with the same level of respect or care. And of course, have fun, let loose, and then the whole experience for both the instructor and student will be enjoyable!
How do you keep students’ attention if you feel they are tiring or losing focus?
I love cracking jokes and poking fun at situations. It keeps the environment light and pleasant! We have all been in the position where we can’t keep our eyes open, so I let them have a break to stretch, get some fresh air, grab a coffee, and then we switch up the focus of the day.
What do you find most rewarding about being an instructor?
I always say, “The success of our school lies in the success of our students.” Seeing our students go from student to business owner, freelancer, employee at a great spa/salon, gives me pleasure beyond words. I wouldn’t be where I am today without my students, and this I know is my purpose in life!
What advice do you have for other beauty school instructors on improving the student experience?
I feel the best way to reach your students’ interest is to talk about your own experiences. Many of them are trying to reach to our level of expertise or just want to have a sense of hope. Sharing our tips, tricks, and experiences is what will help them feel good about their undefined future as a nail technician.
Please include anything else you think our readers would like to know.
Whether or not you’re a beginner in the industry or a veteran, continuing your education will always benefit you, your clients, students, and everyone you come in contact with. It’s what keeps our career interesting and continues to help our industry grow. I love doing advanced classes, as I had the pleasure of travelling to Korea this past summer, and boy howdy, did it change my perspective on how services are done in North America compared to overseas! So with the added knowledge, I made sure to share it with my students, as I knew it would help them realize there is so much to learn about different styles of art and how we can improve our customers’ experience. Never stop learning, growing, and sharing the love of nails. We are in the industry of servicing others!
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