When Annette Ramsey thinks back to her childhood, it is her teachers that she remembers as her greatest inspiration.
“My teachers made me feel important,” she said.
Ramsey waited until after her children were grown and had moved out before she decided to return to school so that she could follow a longtime dream and become a teacher. Leaving a successful 23-year career as a designer, Ramsey got her A.A. in education from Riverside City College before transferring to UC Riverside, where she earned a B.A. in liberal arts.
“I went through several years of focusing on the one goal of becoming an elementary school special needs teacher,” Ramsey said. “I realized toward the end that I did not like the way they said I had to teach. I’m a rebel and have been since my early days. I still wanted to teach, but I wanted to teach something I was good at and something that would really benefit a child who struggles in a regular class setting. I believe with all my heart that art is the answer for these children and adults.”
The 62-year-old Ramsey struck out on her own. She began teaching art classes for low-income children at the Cesar Chavez Community Center in Riverside’s East Side neighborhood. It was the first class of what would become the Riverside Art Academy. She currently operates Studio 38B in downtown Riverside’s Life Arts Center and teaches classes for children at the Orange Terrace Community Center and Starting Gate Educational Services, both in Riverside, and for developmentally disabled adults at Corona’s Peppermint Ridge.
Although she lives in Redlands, Ramsey’s work is primarily in Riverside. Her young students have been exhibited in China and Mexico, as well as several locations in Riverside, including the Riverside Community Arts Association and Riverside Art Museum. In addition, their work has appeared in three exhibitions in U.S. Rep. Mark Takano’s Riverside office. Ramsey is also assisting Congressman Takano’s staff with the annual congressional art competition.
“It’s an honor to help with something that can have such an important impact on a student’s life,” she said.
If a program can be said to be dearest to Ramsey’s heart, it would be Starting Gate, a non-public school housed on the former campus of Riverside’s Grant Elementary School. The program serves multiple school districts that refer students who are currently not able to be enrolled in public schools.
“This is my calling,” Ramsey said. “I see a huge difference in these students. The teachers and staff are amazed at the students’ response. I wasn’t. I know that the arts can make a difference in their lives. These are children who are going to be lost if we don’t do something to make them feel like there is a future in something they do well.”
Ramsey is a mother of two and a grandmother of seven. She is also a tireless advocate for the community and will be recognized as the November Arts and Innovation Honoree of the Month at the Riverside City Council meeting Nov 10.
In addition to the classes she teaches at various sites, Ramsey runs the Art Masters Academy out of her studio in downtown Riverside’s historic Life Arts Center. She hopes to build up a scholarship fund for students and to create an art masters curriculum that she can share with other teachers.
Ramsey’s kindness and passion to make a difference in her community is a great example of Seizing Our Destiny’s unified city pillar. Ramsey demonstrates that we are a caring community that has compassion for all of its inhabitants, and engages with one another for a better life for all.
For more information on Annette Ramsey, visit her Facebook page, Heart Enterprise.
To read the full article, click here.