June 19, 2019 | 65° F

Rutger alumnus shares strong values with middle schoolers

Photo by Courtesy of Aaron Ramos |

 Aaron Ramos's dance class aims to not just get kids to move, but also to encourage them to respect other people's cultures, struggles and stories. He wants his class environment to be one where his students can be themselves without judgement. 

Aaron Ramos, a Mason Gross School of the Arts (MGSA) alumnus, is using his talents of dance and education to teach his Franklin Middle School students about important social issues and life lessons in a creative way.

“I first think about topics and themes that are appropriate for middle school,” Ramos said. “Then, I look for music to match.” 

He always makes sure that he listens to his students’ feedback, learns what they do and do not like and understands their own perspectives on what they want to perform. Ramos called himself a facilitator toward his students.

Ramos works to incorporate social justice issues into the middle schoolers' performances.

“These students are more aware than we think,” Ramos said. “They have easy access to the internet and are able to research such topics.”

Communication between himself and his students has always been key, he said. They always take over the concept and make the performance their own.

“I also talk about my own experiences growing up being an immigrant,” Ramos said. 

He also said that opening up to his students has, in turn, led them to open up to him.

“Being able to relate to them gives them the comfort to trust me, which is crucial. If my students didn’t trust me, they wouldn’t be able to produce such deep and meaningful dance,” Ramos said.

Ramos’s goal is not just to get kids moving in response to societal problems. It is much more than that. He said that his class environment is safe, and students can be themselves without judgment.

“This goes back to my goals for them,” he said. Ramos wants the kids to be positive, contributing members of society, loving human beings and people who respect other cultures, struggles and stories. He wants them to be able to communicate and express their feelings, no matter if they are considered good, bad or indifferent.

Ramos spoke of the importance of dance in more ways than one, not just as an art that can be used to express feelings and portray culture.

“Dance should be offered in every school,” Ramos said. “These kids are wired to stay seated in all classes, take tests, do research and more. Dance is a physical activity. The benefits are incomparable and significant.” 

Ramos also said that dance positively impacts the body and its functions, as well as social skills and problem solving.

Two of Ramos’s most memorable moments as a teacher were when he was named 2014-2015 Teacher of the Year, and when the New Jersey State Council on the Arts produced a story on his Advanced 8th Grade All-Boys Dance Class.

Ramos also discussed how his time at Rutgers shaped him into the person he is today. He did not plan on becoming a teacher, but after a friend — who he graduated from MGSA with in 2007 — told him about an after-school dance program job at Franklin Middle School, he began his new path in education. When that same friend went onto another job, Ramos took her position.

“My experience at Rutgers has been monumental,” Ramos said. “If it weren’t for Rutgers and the amazing people I met there, I wouldn’t be the person I am today.”

Ramos learned to embrace diversity and still carries life lessons that he learned during his undergraduate years as a Scarlet Knight.

Elizabeth Kilpatrick

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