Harry Ramirez teaches 6th grade in Yuma. His impact endures years later

May 24, 2023

By brianpowell

The Flinn Foundation and the Flinn Scholars Program recognize all of the talented and devoted educators in Arizona and their immeasurable impact on the lives of their students. Each spring, the Scholars Program ask members of the new class of Flinn Scholars to identify a distinguished educator who has had the most impact on their education. That educator is then honored by the student at the Flinn Scholars Recognition Luncheon in early May.

Class of 2023 Flinn Scholar Kaylee Woods recognized her sixth-grade teacher, Harry Ramirez of Amerischools Academy-Yuma North. Woods, who attended Cibola High School in Yuma, said of Ramirez: “Mr. Ramirez gave me my first leadership position, which started my love for leading. His class pushed me to be a better learner and a better me.”

In his own words, read more about Mr. Ramirez’s career as a teacher and what inspires him in the classroom.

1. How long have you been a teacher?

All in all, I have been in education since I retired from the Marine Corps in 2000. I was a substitute teacher and have taught a wide range of grade levels, even in special schools for dropouts who returned to get their diplomas. Here at Amerischools-North, I am completing my 11th year.

2. What subjects do you teach?

I teach math (ratios, proportions, statistics and probability); English (spelling, grammar, writing, and stories); science (life science, Earth science, and physical science); and social studies (early civilizations to India and China).

3. What inspires you about teaching sixth grade?

The sixth grade happens to be the last chance I have to inspire them to reach for the stars. Might I say, it’s working.

4. How do you engage with your students in the classroom?

I start with the fact that I will always love you, even if you screw up. I also use the power of reason with every lesson. Why should we learn this lesson? What real life connects can we make from it?

5. How did you encourage Kaylee leading up to or during the Flinn Scholars application process?

Kaylee was already popular in the school due to her boldness in singing in front of the student body. Every year the 6th level raised money for the end-of-the-school-year trip. I needed a strong and serious student to handle the money so she was the given her first leadership position as the class tracker. She kept track of the monies and documented every penny. This was the most important job. As a teacher I could not touch the money and a very trustworthy person was needed.  

6. What was your reaction when Kaylee told you she would like to recognize you as her Distinguished Educator at the annual Flinn Scholars Recognition Event?

I thought, of all the teachers she could have picked. I am humbled and deeply grateful.

7. Kaylee mentioned that many of your former students stay in contact with you after sixth grade. What do you see as the benefits of staying connected to students as they enter high school and beyond?

I try to develop a “come home” attitude, especially when we have our Thanksgiving dinner and our Graduation Dance. I treat them like real graduates. When on occasion I run into my students in the street we hug and take some time to talk about their lives. I’m blessed, especially when they show me their children.

8. What do you find most rewarding about teaching?

The classroom is a battleground against ignorance and self-doubt and when it’s over, we are better for it.