Ruth Torres Walker, Arts Integration Specialists with Los Angeles Unified School District (Local District South) strongly believes the arts can reach everybody through the public school system. With Los Angeles being one of the most diverse metropolitan cities in the nation, Ruth serves the needs of students primarily who are English language learners, immigrants, have special needs, in Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) programs, and are of African American, Native American, Hawaiian and Mexican cultures. She works with visual and performing arts (VAPA) teachers and a multicultural group of students and their families in 9 cities that make up Local District South including, south Los Angeles, Watts and Compton. Her role is to guide and focus instruction, identify learning goals, evaluate and support teachers in meeting the needs of their students. Ruth shares, “If the students are having arts they will be successful academically. I want my teachers to be able to express that and understand it.” Her day to day duties are imbued with this passion, that learning is incomplete without the arts.
One of Ruth’s proudest moments in education was being an advocate for immigrant students and their families. In collaboration with Banning Senior High in Wilmington, she started the Teaching English through the Arts Program for immigrants from Central America, their families, and unaccompanied minors. Students attended a series of both weekly dance classes and family dance classes at their school site. Ruth comments, “I am most proud of the work I have done with workshops with parents. I was able to leave a message to the families that dance and the arts will make their lives better and improve the academics of their students. I feel most successful with the immigrant families. That’s where I belong in the public system, with immigrant families.”
Through Ruth’s participation in trainings by Luna Dance Institute for Family Dance and the Leadership Institute she identified ways to advocate locally for students and families through dance. “With Luna, I have learned to organize and clarify my thoughts and to have goals around advocacy. Luna really made me see more of the value of creative movement and of dance in schools for children.”
Ruth has experienced the benefits of the arts for students. Ruth’s next big project is working on the Grand Arts Dance Festival with Local District Central on April 1, 2017. “We are trying to include all kinds of dance, especially creative movement and student performances that honor all different kinds of dances.” Ruth stressed the importance of reflecting the students’ cultures through the dance festival.
As a lifelong learner and arts advocate, she is curious about how to make the arts available and better in the school system within the school day. “How do I share the benefits of the arts with parents, families, administrators and the board of education, while asking for what I need to include arts in schools the way they should be?” Ruth grapples with how the arts can function successfully in public school systems, which is not the same as a studio setting or arts center. Right now her focus is on helping VAPA teachers express the value the arts have in academics within these learning communities and supporting students and their families artistically and academically.
To learn more about Ruth Torres Walker’s work in the district visit here.
In 25 years, Luna has worked with hundreds of teachers who we’re now proud to say are teaching all around the globe.
From Emily Blossom to Jakey Toor, our past Professional Learning colleagues are collectively and cumulatively teaching tens of thousands of children. We’re sharing their stories, about how they continue to positively impact the dance education field, the future, the world.