[ teaching & learning ]

Remembering your ‘Why’

Dalisa Soto-Peruzzi is a middle school choral teacher and member of the Amsterdam Teachers Association. A teacher for 11 years, she believes that through arts education, especially through music, all students can be empowered to find their own voice and step into their true potential.
Dalisa Soto-Peruzzi smiling
I was surrounded by creatives my entire childhood growing up in New York City and the Dominican Republic.

My Abuela Quiteria, is a gifted weaver. My mother, Belkis, is one, too, as well as a painter and the keeper of the family’s most beloved recetas. Tia Deisy was one of my first music teachers, bringing all the kids in the family along to sing with her at choir practice at the tiny church across the street from my Abuela’s house. Tia Elena was an artisan who made natural wax candles and painted folk art in the traditional style of the Cibao region of the island.

I grew up seeing these strong women creating, making, and singing as forms of self-expression, self-love and liberation.

They were the preservers of culture, stories and family traditions. Risk-takers so their children would have better opportunities. My first role models.

As a Latina music educator teaching in a very diverse high-needs school district, I see the power of representation every day. Children are inspired by role models they can relate to.

Why do I teach?

I teach for the flourishing creatives, the kids looking for their safe place in school, for their outlet, for CommUNITY.

I teach for the kids who sound like me, who speak dialects, and the ones who speak Spanglish, too.

Who share similar stories of the immigrant experience. Whose families left behind everything in search of something better, so their children could dream of dreaming.

Who understand the duality of growing up first-generation and second-generation American. Ni de aqui, ni de alla. But proud to be both.

And I teach for the kids who will have a better understanding of the vastness of the world around them because every day is a celebration of our similarities and differences in the chorus room.

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What’s your why?

Countless talking heads outside the classroom have a lot to say. We want to hear from you. Why did you choose the teaching profession — and why do you stay? Send submissions up to 450 words, along with a photo, to united@nysut.org.