About 35 members of the Sierra Vista Junior High School staff shocked the school’s students by breaking into a “Gangnam Style” flash mob in the quad during brunch on Friday morning, complete with invisible horses and flashy hip-swinging moves.
“We had a Breast Cancer Awareness flash mob,” said Robert Isquierdo, an English teacher at Sierra Vista Junior High in Canyon Country who recently transferred from nearby Golden Valley High School, and coordinated the mob.
“It started out as some comaraderie team-building experience for staff and evolved into a breast cancer awareness mob that actually featured a breast cancer survivor,” Isquierdo said, referring to Laura Schmidt, Sierra Vista’s lead campus supervisor, who very recently was treated for the disease. “We were really excited about that. We were all decked out in pink and the crowd went wild. We got a great response from the kids. Everybody had a great time.”
The mob included staffers ranging from custodians to the administrators, Isquierdo said. “Afterward, we also had a dance competition with the students, and needless to say, the teachers won.”
When he’s not dancing, Isquierdo, who taught at Golden Valley the past three years, teaches English levels 3 and 4 at Sierra Vista. New at Sierra Vista, Isquierdo was looking for a way to get to know everyone he worked with. A friend of his who works for Samsung and visits Seoul once a month suggested a unique icebreaker.
“He told me he’d found the next greatest dance craze,” Isquierdo said. “I thought, ‘We have to do this for our students, to show that the staff is fun and flexible.'”
What his friend saw in Seoul was Psy, the YouTube phenomenon whose viral video “Gangnam Style” bumped Justin Bieber and Katy Perry off the top of the video charts and who recently made appearances on “The Today Show” and “Saturday Night Live.”
“Robert came to me earlier in the year with this flash mob idea,” Crawford said. “It came together (this fall) as we began to raise awarness of a new club on campus, the DFY-IT club (Drug Free Youth In Town, a joint venture between the school district and the city of Santa Clarita), I agreed to dance for the students if more than 50 students signed up for the club. Now we have more than 75 in the club. So when the students came out to brunch today they expected just me to dance.”
They were shocked and happily surprised when a group of 35-40 staff members took to the quad and began to dance in a flash mob, gangnam-style.
“That’s how it got started, but as time went by, it became something bigger,” he explained. “Through our practices, I met Laura and we got to talking about breast cancer awareness. She was wearing her ‘survivor’ shirt and so I thought we should all wear pink during the dance.”
Isquierdo said that the dance at that point went from being a performance to amuse the students to choreography with a message.
“The students could be looking at a survivor, who was Stage 3 and has recovered,” he said. “Laura’s not only living and surviving, but she’s thriving.”
“By doing it in October we had the idea to use this as a platform to create awareness for breast cancer since October is the month for that purpose,” Crawford said. “Another teacher and member of the flash mob, Kerry Skoczylas, help students raise more than $1,600 toward this cause as well.”
Rehearsals of the dance started in late August, with choreography Isquierdo picked up from videos, using his old school dance crew skills.
“I started asking around ‘who’s in?’ and the response was, ‘Let’s do this!'” he added.
“The students were thrilled and the staff loved it,” Crawford said. “It was another way for the adults on campus to relate to the students on a different level. The students and staff work very hard in the classroom. Sierra Vista just increased our test scores by 32 points over last year. This was a way to have fun and to create a positive connection with the students.”
“I think they understand now that we’re not just educators, we’re individuals with energy, with hopefully a little bit of swag (laughs) and positivity,” Isquierdo said. “I think that there are some students here who have a very difficult home life and sometimes school is the only place they get to smile, and I definitely feel that we put a smile on everyone’s face today, and that was important to me, and to the rest of our staff.”
“Robert did an outstanding job in putting this all together,” Crawford said.
“I would like to say that it’s been bigger than I ever imagined and affected me much more,” he said. “It was just a simple dance to get people together and have fun, but now I’ve created something meaningful.”