Hector Corvera dances his way to retirement

(Rigo Moran)

Mexican Folklorico teacher at Woodlake High School retires after spending over three decades educating students

WOODLAKE – After 32 years of teaching dance classes at Woodlake High School, their most senior teacher finally decided to dance his way off campus.

Hector Corvera has been Woodlake High School’s (WHS) dance teacher since 1986. He has taught folklórico, intermediate folklórico as well as line dancing for several decades. After the conclusion of the 2022/2023 school year, Corvera will not be returning to the classroom. Corvera said he is grateful for his time at WHS and wishes the best to the teacher who will take his place. Principal Mike Burchett said because the program has become a staple of the community as well as the high school, they have to find someone to take over soon.

“It definitely fits within our community so we want it to continue to thrive,” Burchett said. “We’re very grateful, Mr. Corvera was here for such a long time and does such a great job. He makes really great connections with kids on many different levels.”

Corvera explained Mexican folklórico as dances from different regions in Mexico. He said each state and region has its own style of dances, their own way of dressing, food and music. Corvera happened upon dancing reluctantly in high school. He said he had one period left to fill in his schedule and his only options were dancing or choir, neither of which he wanted to take. Little did he know at the time, it would take his life in a whole new direction. He said he thoroughly enjoyed the class and after high school he began dancing with a professional folklórico group out of Los Angeles.

Corvera said he learned a lot and loved teaching and building relationships with the students. Teaching over the span of three decades, Corvera said it has been quite an experience, especially because he has had children of some of his students come through his class. He also mentioned that many community members have taken his class as well.

“I guess you would say that they all know me. I love the arts and I enjoy what I do, I will miss it,” Corvera said. “But I just need some more time for myself, I feel like it’s time for me to get up and go whenever.”

The high school reached out to him when they needed a teacher, and Corvera said he found a way to help by teaching one period early morning class. He had his own hairdressing business and was still dancing professionally at the time, but decided he could fit one class in before going to work in the morning. That one class eventually evolved into three at WHS and he also taught at University Preparatory High School in Visalia. He retired from UPHS last year because he didn’t want to retire everything all at once.

The program originated several years before, when Dennis Conner was a teacher at WHS. He taught Spanish, French and English as a second language (ESL). Conner said he had a group of ESL students who wanted to dance and they put on a performance for a Cinco De Mayo celebration. It happened that one of Corvera’s older sisters was one of those original students. More and more students became interested and the class grew from there. Conner said because he did not dance, he brought in teachers and other outside sources to supplement for the students.

WHS is looking to continue the dance program, but the individual who accepts the job has some big shoes to fill. The application was flown a few months ago, and the district may have a few leads but nothing set in stone yet.

“Anytime you get kids involved in something positive, that is both part [of] and outside of school, it helps them make connections to school and it helps them succeed,” Burchett said. “So we were definitely looking to continue the program.”

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