By Teachers, For Teachers
As a teacher-of-the-year and cartoonist, Ramon Ramirez uses classroom challenges and teachers lounge fodder as inspiration for his art.
Ramon's Teacher Toons spreads laughter outside his Texas high school to fellow humor-seeking educators around the country, including the nearly 1,000 fans on facebook. Ramon gave TeachHUB the inside scoop on how humor and positivity are the keys to his classroom success.
What is your favorite teacher toon?
My favorite cartoon is where the teacher and the students both feel the same way because it’s the beginning of the school year and everyone always dreads the first day of school. Both the students and the teacher are crying because they don’t want to be there.
What is the most popular teacher toon? Why do you think cartoon connects with most of your teaching audience?
The most popular teacher toon has been where I show the dress code as worn by the students and also the parents. This has received the most feedback out of all of my cartoons because of it’s universal image that seems to fit every school. A lot of people claimed to have met this particular parent in the cartoon in real life.
Where did you get the ideas/inspiration for the teacher toons you create?
The idea came during my early years of teaching. I was sitting in the teacher’s lounge and I overheard a group of teachers complain about their daily challenges. As we laughed at each other’s battle stories, someone said “We need to put all of our stories down in a book!” That was the point in my career when I began to document my experiences and the stress that surrounds our career as an educator. I call it “stress art” because it comes from stress and I use this formula to transform stress into humor.
After 18+ years of teaching, how would you describe your experience?
It has been a great honor to take on the role of being a teacher. It truly is a roller coaster experience because in the beginning of your career, you are yelling out of fear. Later in your career, you are yelling out of joy. I seize the day with laughter and it has made a big difference in my life.
It was very challenging at first because of me being a rookie. Talk about survival, I had a portable classroom with 47 junior high students and no supplies at all. I do remember those days but no matter how difficult the challenges were, I overcame the negative and learned that if I surround myself with positive vibes it can be a powerful influence that is contagious to your students. I allowed every experience to mold me into a positive force that I can share with others.
It is a very important role that I take on because I have an hour a day to make a difference in a child’s life. My 18 year journey has built my foundation of experience that I stand on. It is fun to take on the day with a smile and help others do the same.
How are you a different teacher now than you were on your first day in the classroom?
Teaching was very challenging for me back then, but now I’m at the point where I truly enjoy my career. I am currently serving as the Fine Arts Department Head for my school campus. I have been doing that for the last 12 years. I am still in the classroom like everyone else but during my last period I take on the role of department head and fulfill my duties.
I enjoy my teaching experience more now than I did back then. I have to honestly say I’m having fun. I have grown in my career in the way I handle stress. Before it was very difficult to take on the day with so many challenges that a first year teacher takes on but I do not forget those days and do my best to help the new staff with positive mentorship. I now understand how important my role as a teacher is and I give it my very best.
Do you integrate comics into the classroom? If so, how?
I teach all forms of art and comics is one method where I integrate the math, writing, history, and other essential elements that make up this powerful element of creativity through cartooning. Comics also lead up to my lessons on the computer where I teach them about Photoshop and other computer skills that will hopefully assist them in obtaining either powerful digital skills.
Do you share your work with students? Why or why not?
As an art teacher, I do share work with my students because I want them to be inspired and also be aware that they too can publish their work no matter where they are from. In today’s age, we can communicate and network with professionals across the planet and I show them how they can do that with the use of today’s technology. I have shared my work with them that I’ve published as far as Hong Kong. My work is also visible at www.smartycartoons.com as well as www.teachertoons.com.
As a previous “Teacher of the Year” at your high school, what do you think sets you apart as a successful teacher?
What sets me apart is my attitude towards my day, my challenges, my students, my co-workers, my daily battles. When you put a lot of heart into what you do, you have powerful results.
I was told once that there are two kinds of people on this planet. The kind that wait for things to happen and the kind that make things happen. I choose to make things happen. That is what sets me apart. I surround myself with positive vibes, a strong moral foundation, and a great sense of humor. Humor is my weapon of choice. I use it daily. I know that laughter is the best medicine and through humor I can get a message across to them with no problem. Many students come from broken homes and it is my wish to be a creative and motivational force that brightens their day.
The positive role I have as a teacher goes beyond the classroom. In my local community, I created a unique cartoon site for the south Texas culture called “Only in the Valley”. It is found on Facebook and in its 4th week of existence it has reached 14,000 fans. I was told once by a local reporter that I had more influence on the locals than the local politicians. I think the fans just proved him right.
My role as a cartoonist and teacher go beyond the classroom. Being a role model and innovator outside of the classroom and to the community has been a great honor. I have been blessed in being able to have a dual role as teacher and cartoonist. I hope to be a blessing to others. That is my mission on a daily basis and that is what sets me apart as a successful teacher.
You also present motivational workshops for teachers. What is the main message hope to spread through this work?
I have sat through many boring presentations so I took it upon myself to do something great for the teachers. I think it’s torture when a teacher has to sit through an hour or more of a boring person. Teacher Toons will take on the bored and make their day a bright one filled with laughter and a unique look into the world of teaching as never seen before through the eyes of a cartoonist who also happens to be a teacher.
This presentation takes on every subject that you have complained about and puts it in such a unique way that it will make you laugh off the stress and do something about it. My main message is to do away with the negative vibes and hang on to the positive ones. Teacher Toons will show your campus that you are not alone in the battles that you face and that you have the power to make your day great. Every teacher has a story and Teacher Toons will empower your school to feel better about themselves and be able to take on the year regardless of the challenge.
What is your one-sentence teaching philosophy?
“Seize the day with laughter!"