MOUNT VERNON, Wash. — It's Teacher Appreciation Week and there are two teachers in Skagit County going above and beyond to educate their students about cultural diversity through food, music and art.
Tim Hornbacher teaches video production at Mount Vernon High School and Ramon Rivera came to the school from Wenatchee to lead the Mariachi program. Combining orchestra with Mariachi is a special distinction for the school and this year the teachers teamed up to focus on issues like social justice, representation and empowerment through a series of videos.
"We started out with that Hispanic Heritage month and it carried over into Native American Heritage month, then we're celebrating Black History month, and Autism Awareness month, and we just kind of continued on from there," said Hornbacher. "It’s been a fun process to go through with him [Rivera] and we’ve gotten to meet so many different people."
Hornbacher said he reached out to Rivera a year ago with the idea to make some impactful videos that the school could watch and discuss as an educational tool to unify more students.
"Mount Vernon High School TV was making sure that everyone feels welcome, and part of public education is that we welcome everybody who comes through that door," said Rivera. "When we decided to make videos, we started with Hispanic Heritage month... which 60% of our district and our school is Hispanic."
The videos have also exposed students to unique professions like bus drivers, police officers, teachers, restaurant workers and more.
"Really the thing we’ve always said to each other was making sure everybody has a seat at the table. There are so many different cultures that are a part of our school and just making sure that their culture and their voices are being heard," said Hornbacher.
The teachers said they intend to continue the momentum as the video series has created some powerful and positive conversations.
Ultimately the videos are intended to give a voice to all students.
"Our goal this year is to bring people together," said Rivera. "There’s a lot of division in our community, and I think they just don’t understand what other people are going through – we bring together and we celebrate diversity."