Ryan Totaro '22 stands in front of a background of trees. Photo by Patrick Montero.

Where They’re Headed: Ryan Totaro ‘22

The English major will teach cinema history and production to high school students.

Ryan Totaro ‘22 is continuing his academic journey after graduating from Haverford, but this time from the other side of the table. The English major, who minored in psychology and film studies at Bryn Mawr, will begin his teaching career as a film instructor at Community High School of Arts and Academics, in Roanoke, VA, starting this fall.

Totaro’s classes will focus on areas of cinema production and history. His cinema production course will focus on introducing filmmaking and all its components.

“Students will experience every stage of the filmmaking process—from pre-production through post-production—in the creation of a short film, including (though certainly not limited to) screenwriting, camera operation, and editing techniques,” he said.

Meanwhile, his cinema history course, “Who’s Watching?: The Here and Now of Cinema,” will look at recent developments in cinema history. The class will ask questions, such as how have streaming services and social media changed the way our culture consumes media, while giving students a solid understanding of the fundamentals of film theory, history, and critique.

Community High School found Totaro via his profile on Southern Teachers Agency (STA), a placement agency recommended to him by the Center for Career and Professional Advising. When contacted by the school, Totaro was interested primarily due to its resemblance to Haverford.

“Haverford attracted me, in large part, because of its culture of learning for learning’s sake and academic collaboration. I know it may seem cliché, but I really believe that Haverford delivers on its mission, in this regard,” he said. “During the job search process, I wanted to find a high school that cultivated a similar learning environment for its students: one that fostered intellectual curiosity, rather than a competitive learning culture.”

When he visited Community High School this past spring, he felt as though he had found an extension of the genuine academic interest displayed by students at Haverford. Classes were collaborative and inclusive, and the school doesn’t assess through numerical grades, but rather through narrative evaluations.

He concluded, “To put a long story short, I fell in love with CHS precisely because of its resemblance to Haverford!”

Though he was unsure of his career plans going into college, Totaro was inspired by Daniel Torday, professor and co-director of creative writing at Bryn Mawr with whom he took “Screenwriting I” and “Short Fiction I” classes.

“During my time with Professor Torday, I realized that I might enjoy teaching creative writing and fine arts classes for a living,” he said. “More broadly, Professor Torday inspired and nurtured my appreciation for the production and study of cultural expression.”

Totaro’s experiences in his classes were enriched further by his extracurricular activities. As a student, he served as co-founder, co-leader, and treasurer of the Bi-Co Film Society. In fall 2020, he led a student seminar that he had created himself, titled “Body Horror Across Media,” as an Undergraduate Humanities Fellow at the Hurford Center, and he served as Officer of Academics on the Students’ Council in 2021–22.

After graduating summa cum laude with high honors in English, as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa Society, and the recipient of the William Ellis Scull 1883 Prize, Totaro looks to inspire the same love of learning and culture in others, as Haverford did in him.

“Where They’re Headed” is a blog series chronicling the post-collegiate plans of recent Haverford graduates.