Seattle's Child

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Paraeducator Ronnue McThomas

Para educator Ronnue McThomas can be found in school and on Spotify. Photo by Joshua Huston

Their story was his story: Paraprofessional Ronnue McThomas

Ronnue McThomas has a mission—several missions, in fact. As a Corrections Education Associate at Seattle Public School’s Interagency Alternative Academy e aims to get often reluctant high school students to attend and stay in school. 

The secret to his success? He was once just like them. He credits his success with students deemed “challenging” to his willingness to share his own experiences: “I’ve been those kids,” McThomas says.

A music dream 

When McThomas was in high school, he and his brother were sure they would be famous. The music they made played on Seattle’s radio stations alongside talents like Sir Mix-a-Lot, and they were headed for the big time. School took a backseat to that dream, but McThomas completed all credits needed to graduate, save half of one credit. Still, he almost didn’t graduate due to an abysmal senior-year attendance record.

Only by the skin of his teeth, with the threat of his mother, and the grace of his biology teacher—who allowed McThomas to make up a semester’s worth of work in two weeks—did he walk across the stage with his class at graduation. He remembers that day as one of triumph over tragedy.

Ronnue McThomas has a passion for fashion, music and the students he serves. Photo by Joshua Huston

Rough times

When things didn’t go as hoped with music, McThomas moved from Seattle to Atlanta. While on the east coast, he owned a business and continued following his passion for making music. When the economy changed during the 2008-2010 recession, McThomas’s business flagged. He returned to Seattle, where he briefly experienced homelessness. 

After spending approximately four months unhoused, he returned to school—first to earn his associate degree. McThomas credits his return to school with helping him turn his life around. It led him into the classroom as a paraeducator. 

Desire to be a change agent

His ability to relate to kids’ challenges led McThomas back to school. He’s currently working to complete his bachelor’s in early childhood education. He plans to get a master’s degree, which he hopes to use to create positive change in the education system.

One thing he’d change is the length of time spent teaching. 

“We live in a soundbite society. Kids are on Snapchat and TikTok. Their attention spans have gotten shorter. People are processing information faster, and we spend way too long expecting kids to listen to a teacher for an hour,” McThomas says. 

In college, McThomas learned a better way to teach: spend 15 minutes presenting new material, followed by 10 minutes off for kids to process that material. 

Cellphone conundrum

McThomas is also interested in the impact of physical movement on learning. “People in general learn better when they’re moving,” he says. “I’d like to see how combining physical activity with teaching traditional subjects might help kids learn better.”

One of the main battles he sees facing teachers is the need to compete with students’ cellphone use in class. Schools are not empowered to intervene or enforce rules and regulations around students’ phones, leaving students free to remain glued to their devices. 

“If I had my way, the legislature would pass a law so parents could limit phones to only calling or texting parents during school hours, in case of emergency,” he says. He recognizes the potential for danger in schools, especially considering the nationwide escalation of school gun violence. Phones are a necessary evil, but he firmly believes limitations would improve kids’ engagement in the classroom.

Always a music man 

McThomas’s passion for making music has never waned. Independent music awards have recognized several of his recordings, and his Spotify channel has over a million listeners. His style combines R&B, funk, and hip-hop and is uniquely McThomas. Depending on which of his tracks you listen to—including those on his latest 2023 release titled R&B is Not Dead—you might think you’re hearing Eric B. & Rakim back in the day, or perhaps Bizarre, or maybe John Legend, or any number of artists whose names and music are standard fare on the radio. And although you may hear the influence of other artists in his music, it’s impossible to confine McThomas, whose artist name is Ronnue, to any one genre. 

“You might find me writing country, old school, rap—I love it all. It just depends on what’s in my mind,” he says.

Seeing the unique potential in every student

When not working at Interagency or doing his own schoolwork, you’ll find McThomas in the recording studio, playing a gig anywhere from Seattle to Atlanta, or procuring fashion items. In music, clothing, and life, McThomas’s style is all his own.

He recognizes that same uniqueness in each of the kids he works with. In sharing his own story, he inspires them not to give up on school, but to use it to advance their dreams.

More at Seattle’s Child:

Paras: The unsung heroes of public schools

About the Author

Claire Sheridan

Claire Sheridan is a US-based writer and writing group facilitator. She enjoys debating about policy, current events, and critical existential concerns such as the best gluten-free cookie recipe. Connect with her at