By Crystal Hayduk
[This story is part of the Willard H. Johnson Scholarship recipient series. Related story here: https://chelseaupdate.com/pay-it-forward-principle-21-years-and-counting-of-willard-h-johnson-scholarships/]
For Rosalyn Harvey-Torres, the summer of 2020 is a season of change, pursuit of goals, and response to current events.
She’s relocating to Atlanta after accepting a position at Georgia State University in the College of Education and Human Development, where, in addition to teaching, she will be a researcher and work on federal grants to improve teaching of multilingual students and expand dual language programs in Georgia.
Rosalyn is the daughter of Grant and Joan Harvey. She was a recipient of the Willard H. Johnson Scholarship twice—in 2005 when she graduated from Manchester High School and in 2006 as a student at the University of Michigan (U-M). Her mother’s work as a nurse at St. Joseph Mercy Chelsea Hospital made Rosalyn eligible for the scholarship. “She worked in the Head Pain Unit, among other units, for about 30 years before her retirement last year,” she said.
When she was in high school, Rosalyn considered a career in education. “My Spanish teacher, ‘Señora’ Cheryl Call, has had a profound influence in my career and the direction of my life,” she said. “When I was 15, she encouraged me to become a bilingual paraprofessional in a summer Head Start Program for the children of migrant farm workers in Manchester. This experience helped me understand more deeply the inequities that exist in school and in society, and also see that teaching could be a vehicle for working towards a more just and anti-racist society. Her sense of humor, her strong sense of justice, and her teaching from a place of understanding and empathy have really impacted my own pedagogy and practices.”
As a student at U-M, she took language classes, met people with diverse backgrounds, and read widely. As part of her coursework, she taught a writing workshop in a girls’ juvenile detention center and ESL (English as a second language) classes to multilingual adults and children. “These experiences taught me so much about language, literacy, and education, as well as opened my world to the ways that different people experience life; and how deeply race, socioeconomic status, and immigration status impact people’s lived experiences,” said Rosalyn.
Rosalyn earned her bachelor’s degree in Spanish in 2008; she stayed at U-M to complete a master’s degree in elementary education with a focus on ESL in 2010. After earning her graduate degree, she served students in Manor, Texas and Monterrey, Mexico as a bilingual/ESL elementary school teacher for five years.
She taught language and literacy courses in the undergraduate program and did research at elementary schools while also enrolled as a doctoral student at the University of Texas at Austin. This past spring, Rosalyn completed her doctorate degree in curriculum and instruction, with a focus on bilingual education.
Rosalyn is married to Manny Torres. The couple enjoys outdoor activities such as gardening, hiking, and camping; cooking and trying new restaurants; watching shows and films; dancing; and traveling.
Not only is Rosalyn a gifted educator, she is also creative and has an eye for beauty. “I have an Etsy shop called TexasMinimalistShop where I sell vintage clothing that I source, style, and photograph,” she said. “Since quarantine, I’ve been learning to sew and have started making some garments as well.” (Find Rosalyn’s work on IG at instagram.com/texasminimalist/ or on Etsy at https://www.etsy.com/shop/TexasMinimalistShop?ref=search_shop_redirect.)
Since the pandemic began, Rosalyn and Manny have both been able to work remotely from home. The college courses she taught during the last semester shifted online, and her in-person research at the elementary schools came to a halt. She said it’s been an adjustment to build relationships with students, teachers, and colleagues virtually. Finding time and motivation to work while also trying to keeping up with COVID-19 developments in Texas has been an additional challenge.
“I’ve also been taking part in protests and activism work in response to the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Tony McDade, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the racism and police brutality so many Black people in America experience,” said Rosalyn. “I’m thinking a lot about whiteness and how to reflect on my own privilege while using my voice to engage other white people in my circle of friends and family to do anti-racist work.”
Rosalyn encourages others of any age to maintain a growth mindset through curiosity and engagement with the world and the lives of others, including people with diverse backgrounds or who experience the world differently. “Read as much as you can; watch films and shows that reflect experiences that are different from your own.
“… Get to know yourself and your gifts. Feel comfortable with who you are and what you’re good at—then share it with the world.”