“He was a very gentle communicator. When I would observe him in the classroom, his teaching was seamless,” said Michele Mummert, director of the Institute for Educators and Teaching Artists at the Alliance Theatre in Midtown. Jaramillo was a teaching artist with the organization.
“He valued each person and he was very genuine with everyone he interacted with. He made you feel important, unique and special.”
Jaramillo, a Lithonia resident, died June 6 from leptomeningeal disease.
Recently the institute dedicated an in-school professional learning residency scholarship in honor of Jaramillo, so that his form of “joyful learning,” as Mummert called it, would carry on.
“It was devastating to learn about his illness,” she said. “He and [his wife] Therra kept such a positive attitude throughout the whole thing. He touched all of our lives. We were a very close group that worked collaboratively to plan lessons and training. We wanted to keep John with us each year and keep his work with us. We wanted to do something lasting and significant.”
The scholarship will be awarded annually to a teacher and his/her students in grades pre-kindergarten through second grade, providing a teaching artist in his or her classroom for 12 sessions. The program uses drama and theatrical techniques to enhance student learning.
“The idea is that the teaching artist provides tools that teachers will see them use, and so the teacher learns new ways of teaching,” said Mummert.
Jaramillo, a Pueblo Indian and professional dancer, incorporated movement into his lessons.
“He would integrate whole body learning, which is very beneficial to brain development,” said Therra Gwyn Jaramillo. “The arts help to engage children in a way that sitting in a lecture or reading a text book simply doesn’t. John had a great respect for teachers and when he got to help them accomplish goals with students, it made him really happy.”
In addition to his work with the Alliance, Jaramillo performed in and taught dance in schools across metro Atlanta for over 20 years. He also performed throughout the U.S., Canada, Mexico, England and Spain with flamenco and Native American dance groups.
“It means everything to me to know that all the work that John did over the past two decades with children, that some of it will continue in his name,” his wife said. “He dedicated his life to expanding horizons of people he performed for and worked with. It’s nice to know that will keep happening and his name will be attached to it. I’m so touched. He would have been so humbled by this.”
The first scholarship will be awarded this fall to a teacher and classroom at Winnona Park Elementary in Decatur.