Cedar Bluff Teacher
Is A Salsa SpecialistPosted by Josh Flory on 2/8/2019
When Jacqui Solano was a student at the University of Tennessee, she wasn’t a bar-hopper and didn’t enjoy going to the gym.
So when her older sister invited her to a salsa dancing event, Solano decided to tag along. She didn’t make it onto the dance floor that night, but a seed was planted that would change her life.
These days, the 8th-grade ELA teacher at Cedar Bluff Middle School spends many of her evenings as a dance instructor, giving lessons at several local dance studios along with her husband, Waldo Solano, while also continuing to teach and perform in Knoxville and across the Southeast.
Solano said salsa has made an enormous difference in her emotional well-being, and she’s become something of a dance evangelist, both in her middle-school classroom and outside of it.
“If we don’t have something that relieves that stress or calms us down or is fun for ourselves, then I think that’s when a lot of problems start happening,” she said.
Solano grew up near Raleigh, N.C., and as a middle school student began suffering from anxiety attacks that continued into high school and college. After attending that first salsa class as a spectator, it took her about a year to finally take the plunge herself. But when she started taking lessons, she quickly noticed that her anxiety and stress levels had gone down.
“With your endorphins going, it’s just like working out,” she said. “And I hated to work out at the time. Hated to run, hated to go to the gym, but … before I knew it, I was dancing for hours or an hour in a class and I was burning lots of calories and I was feeling great.”
Solano said her husband has a similar story. A native of Mexico City, Waldo Solano started dancing while living in Atlanta, and found it therapeutic. Not surprisingly, the two met through dancing at a social event, and Waldo Solano now manages their business full-time.
Jacqui Solano has spent most of her career as an 8th-grade teacher, including several years at Holston Middle School. While at Holston, she created a step team for students -- learning the dance style by watching YouTube videos -- and at Cedar Bluff she is helping to lead a new diversity committee that will host a cultural showcase for dancers and other performers this spring.
As parents of a bilingual child, Solano and her husband are passionate about cultural diversity, and her own struggles with anxiety have helped her identify with students who may have similar challenges.
Whether it’s in the classroom or on the dance floor, Solano is committed to following her passion.
“We just decided years ago that we’re going to do things we’re passionate about,” she said of herself and her husband. “We want to leave a legacy behind, and my legacy is the classroom, that’s what I’m leaving, but there’s also different sides to me, and to everybody … That’s what makes us great.”
KCS Enthusiast is an occasional series that highlights district employees with interesting talents, hobbies or spare-time pursuits. Links to previous chapters in the series can be found below: