High School English Teacher
Los Angeles, CA
Jason Torres-Rangel has taught High School English and Ballet Folklorico for 11 years, currently at the UCLA Community School at the Robert F. Kennedy Community Schools complex, and before that at Los Angeles High School. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Pomona College, and a Masters in Education from Harvard University. He has served in a number of leadership positions at his school, including English Lead Teacher, UTLA Chapter Chair, School Site Council member, and Senior Council Advisor. At UCLACS, he has helped develop the school’s unique Seminar elective program that includes classes such as Yoga, Electrical Engineering, Sign Language, Entomology, Sailing, and more. Outside of school Mr. Torres-Rangel is a teacher consultant for the UCLA Writing Project and the California Writing Project. He has also presented at a number of conferences including the California Association of Teachers of English, the Coalition for Essential Schools Fall Forum, and With Different Eyes at UCLA. He has created curriculum for the Discovery Channel’s online Literature series and the Getty Museum. He was selected by United Way as an Inspirational Teacher for the 2014-2015 year. Mr. Torres-Rangel’s own parents were both LAUSD teachers at Wilson High School, and they serve as continual inspiration for him.
Why do you teach?
In the words of bell hooks, “The academy is not paradise. But learning is a place where paradise can be created. The classroom with all its limitations remains a location of possibility. In that field of possibility we have the opportunity to labour for freedom, to demand of ourselves and our comrades, an openness of mind and heart that allows us to face reality even as we collectively imagine ways to move beyond boundaries, to transgress. This is education as the practice of freedom.”
I teach because I believe that education can be a powerful vehicle through which communities, especially those who have been historically disenfranchised, can come together to strengthen the very fabric of our society. It is through education that we come to understand and celebrate our differences, rather than be frightened by them. It is through education that we build a more humane and just world.
What do you love about teaching?
The students! Teaching is a deeply human endeavor, and I can’t tell you how many times I have been inspired by a student who has that “ah-ha!” moment, or has helped me understand something new about the world. The students are hilarious, too, and I can’t think of a more fun and fascinating bunch of human beings to be around than young people.
I should add that my co-workers are the other thing I love about teaching. I love being around a supportive group of educators who share expertise, help each other grow, and are there for each other through the tough moments (and the great ones).
When you were a student, was there a great teacher who inspired you?
Besides my parents who were both teachers (and who were my own teachers in school), another great educator who inspired me was Ms. Konoske, my high school English teacher. She helped develop my passion for reading and writing. She introduced me to Sandra Cisneros. She introduced me to Carlos Fuentes. Most importantly, she introduced me to our class mantra that I now use with my own students, “Through reading, writing, thinking, and speaking, we study literature to find out more about what it means to be human.”