Erica Ramirez

October 3, 2016

Every month in our UCCI newsletter, we feature one of the extraordinary educators we have worked with at the UCCI Institutes and in the UCCI Teacher Exchange. We started this feature so that we could have a way of publicly showcasing how creative, innovative, and smart California teachers are. We archive every issue of the Teacher Spotlight here, on the UCCI website, at our Teacher Spotlight page.

This month the spotlight is on Erica Ramirez, English Teacher, Community Health Advocates School (CHAS), Augustus F. Hawkins High School


In your own words: What do you do, and why?

I am a teacher leader. While I spend most of my time and energy on the work I do in the classroom, I am very passionate about teacher voice and teacher leadership. I believe the work to support students must always have as many stakeholders involved, especially teachers.

What was your background prior to your current role, and how did you decide to become a teacher?

Teaching has been my first and only career, but along the way it has taken many shapes. I have worked elementary school literacy programs through Americorps Vista and taught middle and high school students in cities such as San Francisco, Oakland, and Los Angeles. Outside of the school day, I have been an Enrichment teacher for Upward Bound and Director for a summer program. I decided to be a teacher as a Teacher's Assistant while finishing up my undergraduate degree. I knew I could relate to and support students like me.

You teach at Augustus Hawkins High School, in the Community Health Advocates School. What is the main goal CHAS faculty have for their students, and what impact do you think the school has on students that a more “traditional” curriculum might not?

The mission of the Community Health Advocates School (CHAS) is to "nurture, empower and inspire the future social workers and community health advocates of South Central [Los Angeles]." We believe that by students learning about their own experiences and advocating for themselves, their families and their communities, they will create a more just and more peaceful world. The learning starts within, but then it is limitless. We consider ourselves a family, which means we know each other as a staff and we know our students well. For us, building relationships allows us to then teach the curriculum.

You were on a UCCI course development team at a UCCI Institute in June 2016 where you developed two courses: Developing Future Mental and Behavioral Health Professionals and Social Work and Health Advocacy in Action.  Please talk about how these courses fit in to your program of study at CHAS.

These courses are essential to our program of study at CHAS because they allow students to directly connect with their learning. In the Social Work and Health Advocacy in Action course, they not only learn about mental and behavioral health as a theory or practice, but they also learn about the tools by doing their own introspection. This is complimented by the connection to advocacy for marginalized and underserved groups. Then, in their senior year, the Developing Future Mental and Behavioral Health Professional course allows students to take the next step in their leadership by becoming mentors to 9th grade students in our small school. In the spring, they apply for internships in the community and thus begin to share their skill set and get ready for college.

What are your top three resources (online or otherwise) for learning or teaching English, and why?

Although, they are not specific to English, I use the following the most:

  • Google Docs: I can provide my students an article. They can make a copy, share annotations, and I can write comments back. I also do this with essays.
  • Remind: It is both an app or you can use it online, but it allows students to receive a reminder from me about tutoring, change in plans, etc. Essentially, it allows you to text students (and parents), without having to do so through your personal phone number.
  • Genius Scan: Also an app, which allows me to scan and share documents with my phone.

We’d love to hear about any non-academic interests/experiences/hobbies you have, or perhaps related to academics but not necessarily to your current role.

In my spare time I love to travel, run half marathons, and spend time with friends and family.

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“I've gained more from this institute in regards to curriculum development than any other program I've been associated with in my 12 years of teaching.” 

- Aaron Lemos, Spring 2013 UCCI Institutes