Ravenswood Education Foundation raises funds in memory of Belle Haven teacher José Iván Ibarra

by Linda Hubbard Gulker on December 19, 2019

José Iván Ibarra, beloved Belle Haven School teacher and professional dancer, passed away unexpectedly from a heart attack on Dec. 9, 2019 in Redwood City at the age of 54.

“His life was the embodiment of community service,” emails Menlo Park resident Carolyn Bowsher.

“I volunteered in his class every Friday and miss him dearly. He brought his love of dance, positive energy and uplifting spirit to kindergarten everyday.

“Despite starting the school year with a class of students who did not attend pre-school or speak English, he was able to get them all on grade level, speaking English and ready for first grade every year. He was a jewel of a teacher.

“Ravenswood Education Foundation has a fund in his name. We will honor his legacy.”

José was born in Chapala, Mexico to Juan and Jovita Ibarra in 1965. His family immigrated to the United States when he was six, and he grew up in the Belle Haven neighorhood of Menlo Park.

After high school, José attended the University of California Santa Barbara. His journey and love affair with movement began while in college, where he discovered the José Limon Technique. His dancing and choreography were highly influenced by this great Mexican pioneer of dance.

José and dear friend Pete Litwinowicz came together to form Dance Continuum SF in January 2007 to 2012. José studied and collaborated with Gary Masters, Cheryl Chaddick, Maria Basil, Claudine Naganuma and Margaret Wingrove. His work has been performed in San Francisco, San José, Los Angeles, Hilo, Austin and New York, and internationally in Mexico, China and Japan.

José was also a passionate and admired kindergarten teacher at the Belle Haven School in the Ravenswood City School District for 23 years. He had an incredible love for his students, and worked tirelessly to make learning exciting and help them be successful.

José had a way of lighting up a room, and made everyone he met smile, laugh and feel loved. He touched the lives of his family, friends, colleagues and students, and he will be deeply missed.

José married his long-time partner Dean Larson in 2013. He is survived by his husband Dean; his parents Juan and Jovita; sisters Maria Trinidad Gonzales, Silvia Alvarez, Margarita Segura and Guadalupe Ibarra; brother Daniel Ibarra; and many nieces and nephews.

Menlo Park Mayor Ray Mueller, in one of the last acts of his one-year mayoral term, proclaimed Dec. 17, “forever José Iván Ibarra Day.”

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