January 17, 2023 by Catherine Stack
Edwin Sorto teaches kindergarten class at KIPP DC Promise Academy in Southeast Washington D.C. In his unique class, he incorporates Latin dance into his lesson plans. His pint-sized students turned dancers have joyfully embraced dancing and can do it all – salsa, mambo, chacha and merengue.
In Edwin’s special afternoon class, his students consist of 25-30, 5-year-olds. He teaches art, PE and cultural activities. He has woven dance lessons into his curriculum and the students love it. Impressed with his young student’s talent he now takes his group of tiny dancers to perform with him at city wide festivals.
“If this wasn’t given to them, it (their talent) would have been hidden,” said Edwin.
Edwin believes the kids learn much more than dance moves in his class. He believes that dancing also teaches the students impactful lessons in curiosity, discipline, and perseverance. Their newly discovered talent and capabilities is transformative. He says the pure joy and confidence that his students radiate upon mastering a dance routine is priceless. His class is a place where the kids could just be themselves and be playful.
“Makes me proud,” said one of his little dancers when asked why she loved Edwin’s class.
Edwin does not believe that his dance classes interfere with other more traditional learning but rather enhances it. Edwin observed that breaking up the day with dance puts the children in high spirits and raises their aptitude for academics with renewed energy. He said the kids also develop a lifetime of social skills, and an appreciation for diverse cultures from attending dance class.
“There are these elements of interacting with people of another gender, of politeness, of self-confidence, of etiquette. It’s amazing to watch young children develop that ease in a world that can sometimes work against civility,” Edwin explained.
Edwin has been teaching at the school for three years. In search of a more fulfilling career, he left a construction management career and turned to a program called the Capital Teaching Residency. Once hired, he was allowed to brainstorm more creative lesson plans.
Edwin arrived in the United States from El Salvador at age 13. He credits the universal language of music and dance with helping him adapt to living in a new country. It provided a positive outlet and a way to express himself. He now wants to give back to his community and help spread the joy of music and dance.
Edwin and his wife also teach dancing lessons to adults. He finds though that his young students pick up the lessons more easily as they are more open minded.
“Kids are naturals,” Edwin explained. “The kids aren’t self-conscious. They pick it up like sponges.”
Edwin and his wife uploaded videos of the kids dancing on a Facebook page they named Mr. Sorto’s class which became an overnight social media sensation.
Edwin and his pint-sized dancers are busier than ever preparing for a performance at Capital Congress, and a salsa festival.
“For me, it’s very important for them to see something outside of where they live—I like to expose them to new things that they might normally not see or know about,” Edwin said. “I bring in Latin culture, and at the same time, I’m also learning from them and their culture.”
The Foundation For a Better Life and PassItOn believe that Edwin Sorto is a hero. His creative teaching is making a positive impact in his young student’s lives. His action is the perfect example of mentorship. Please help us celebrate Edwin by sharing his heartwarming story.
Watch video here: https://youtube.com/watch?v=3T0bRqO0vEk&feature=shares
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