The anticipation etched on the 10-year-olds’ faces was that of pure childish delight. They stood huddled in a circle around a figure stationed in the middle of the elementary school field—a halo of devotees. The central figure barked instructions and the kids scattered like billiard balls to their various assigned positions on the field. Upon a shrill whistle, the children swung into action: sprinting, screaming and colliding.
The figure, now standing on the sideline, calmly contemplated the scene he had orchestrated. No, he was not an adult coach; he was 10-year-old Raul Jorcino, who had learned how to coach rugby that morning from a book hidden under his desk.
“They listened to me, they followed what I said and they learned rugby,” Jorcino said. “I had some kind of persuasive power.”
This talent did not fade with age. One day in high school, Jorcino convinced his friends to play hooky. However, instead of spending the blissful hours of freedom at the movie theater, they went down to the track and took part in track and field competitions, Jorcino said.
“I have the papers with their times. They’re all fat and bald now, but they look back and say, ‘That was the fastest I ever was,’” Jorcino said.
As a PUSD adaptive physical education teacher, Jorcino uses this talent of persuasion to convince special education children that they can perform physical feats.
“I try to convince, to encourage, to make people believe that they can get better,” Jorcino said.
Jorcino began his career as a physical education teacher in his hometown of Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1985.
Jorcino said that he came to realize that he enjoys giving children who do not normally play sports the opportunity and confidence needed enjoy physical activity. That is why he enjoys working with special education children specifically.
“Don’t tell me what he can’t do, tell me what he might be able to do,” Jorcino said.
Jorcino began working for PUSD in 1999, shortly after he arrived in California.
“There are two kindergarten students who were born the same day that I started to teach in Piedmont.” Jorcino said. “So when I forget how long I’ve been teaching, I just ask them ‘how old are you?’”
Retired PUSD special education teacher, Patti Lowe-Stevenson, who worked alongside Jorcino at the elementary schools, said that one of Jorcino’s greatests strengths was his ability to work as a team member.
“He really believed that being able to participate in physical activity promoted the other areas of a child’s need,” Lowe-Stevenson said. “This man would bring bicycles into the school… he started a swimming program. He was very successful in really everything that he tried to do with the kids.”
Interestingly, Jorcino said that personally he has always preferred individual activities. This solitary characteristic dominates his two favorite hobbies: running and art.
“Interestingly, sport and art are very similar. They are both solitary– sometimes I need that,” Jorcino said.
Jorcino said that he and his brother were both born with a natural talent for art and became apprentices at their art teachers’ studio at a young age.
“My parents weren’t very present, so every Saturday my brother and I would wake up and start painting,” Jorcino said.
To this day, Jorcino also pursues his artistic career alongside his teaching career. He tries to paint in his studio garage whenever he has time and teaches art classes, mostly for special education kids.
“I believe everyone is born with a talent. I believe I was born with a gift of drawing and painting for some reason, but that is my side job,” Jorcino said. “I would like it if I could combine teaching and art.”
In looking for parallels between natural talent and profession, Jorcino said that there are many aspects of art that are also present in teaching. The beauty of working with special education kids is that they are sometimes unpredictable and you have to innovate on the spot, Jorcino said.
“You have to creatively work through their moods; you have a pattern, but somehow you have to divert their attention,” said Jorcino, while his hands subconsciously drew a snake pattern in the air.
Parent of one of Jorcino’s students, Shirley Rexrode, also recognized and praised this innovative ability of Jorcino’s.
“He takes advantage of technology a lot. When the iPads first came out, he used to videotape the kids swimming and show them how they were moving,” Rexrode said. “I can’t believe that in one person there can be so many amazing and divergent qualities.”
Both Lowe-Stevenson and Rexrode said that Jorcino has the ability to push kids to their maximum potential without breaking them.
“He makes kids do things that even the parents don’t believe they can do,” Rexrode said.
Rexrode said that she was skeptical when Jorcino initially began working with her child.
“The first time he ever said that my child could run in with the kids, I was like ‘What? There’s no way, this kid, if someone just brushes past him, will fall because his balance is compromised,’” Rexrode said
After much convincing from Jorcino, Rexrode began to train and run with her child. The rewards of Jorcino’s training became evident when her child was able to run in a 5K race against general education kids and win, Rexrode said.
“There was a 5K race that he won and it just totally floored me,” Rexrode said.
Jorcino said that it is extremely gratifying to be able to change the life of a person.
“He really cares about the whole child,” Rexrode said. “He is such a jewel for this community, I hope that he really values how much he contributes to all of our lives.”