Joe Ruiz teaches with a twist. An educator at La Porte High school, Ruiz keeps it interesting in the classroom in an effective and innovative way - by rapping. Also known as the “Rhymer Educator,” Ruiz educates by day and rhymes by night.
“Around 17 years old, I used to make music with some friends. In college, me and my roommates made music together," explained Ruiz. "I didn’t make music when I got older and when I started teaching. One day, a student came in rapping one of my songs, and the fact that he liked something that I wrote was really cool. He liked it well enough to memorize the lyrics and then the next thing I know, my students were telling me to start a record and that I should put out an album."
Students of Ruiz had found his music online and encouraged him to start a GoFundMe page to get just one song recorded.
“I told them if the first song is good enough, we’ll sell it for people to download for a dollar, but I want to give half of the proceeds to a local charity. In the first nine days, I got funded enough to record a song and people bought it,” said Ruiz. “Half of the proceeds went to the Pax Center. The GoFundMe page paid for the first song, and the sales of that song paid for the second song. The idea is to carry this process on for a full album and to give back to charity.”
The news of Ruiz's hidden talent got out to the student body and then the idea came to him - he could combine both of his passions in the classroom.
“I recreate power points and books in rap form and the kids get a kick out of it. One day of class, I walked in rapping and it got all of their attention, like, 'Why is this teacher rapping?' It gets their attention,” said Ruiz. “By itself, these presentations and lectures are kind of sterile. Sometimes it’s hard to show these kids the practicality of what we’re learning.”
For Ruiz, he says he doesn’t teach the way he does for the sake of teaching differently.
“To me, I want to teach and be myself. I don't want to teach to be different than everybody else in my department. I just want to be me,” said Ruiz. “It’s my classroom and I feel comfortable there. Before teaching, I worked in a youth correction facility and working there, I found the love for being with kids. I found the philosophy to always be weirder than the kids you are serving, because if you’re not, they will get bored and things will get stagnant. I want to keep things interesting and to keep the kids on their toes.”
Ruiz found that his classroom engages the students, and the classroom has turned into a big fan base for the business teacher.
“I call myself a hip-hop philanthropist because I use my music for good. I want to give half of my proceeds to the community in a charitable way," Ruiz said.
To listen to the Rhymer Educator, you can visit https://mrruiz.bandcamp.com/music to get a feel for his music.
Ruiz concluded, “If we can get a few thousand people to buy my one song, it’s great to get the word out about my hobby, but most importantly, I get to give back to a greater cause."