1. As a Harvard undergraduate, what inspired you to major in Latin American History and Literature?
First, I had always wanted to learn Spanish. My mom had told me it was my first language, because as a baby, I had a babysitter from Puerto Rico. Apparently, I came home requesting "carne" for dinner! In high school, we only had French and Arabic as language choices, so I wanted to be sure to learn something new in college. Second, I had decided to major in government, but when I attended my first class as a freshman, I was overwhelmed by more than 300 students and a famous professor lecturing from a pulpit. I didn’t like the competition among students to be the best in the class - it almost seemed like a job interview. So I immediately switched majors to something that would count my Spanish classes as credit toward my degree. I also wanted to visit South America in the future.
2. Who is your fictional hero?
I always identified with Leigh Botts from Dear Mr. Henshaw, by Beverly Cleary. Leigh was a troubled, lonely child and I was, too. Being an only child raised by a single mom, I was always looking for attention from someone like an older brother or sister or father figure. The Graded Library has a copy of this book, if you’re interested in reading it.
3. As an Optimal Learning Services teacher, you work with kids who experience learning challenges. What drew you to this work?
I have a natural tendency to help those who have less or who struggle. I started with animals and rescue pets, and then I helped younger students in school as a tutor. My first job was working as a playground supervisor for elementary kids when I was in high school. It is just who I am. Being able to focus on teaching children who don't necessarily get everything the first time hooked me on teaching. I think all children have the potential to show us their strengths. Sometimes you just have to look a little deeper to find them.
4. You’ve been both a teacher and an administrator. What’s your favorite part of each position?
As a teacher, I enjoy the "ah-ha" moments that kids have when they understand a concept or master a skill. That is the best. As an administrator, I loved when parents realized their child’s gifts and relished them. I also loved seeing kids perform. In both positions, I have enjoyed attending students' basketball games and music recitals outside of school. They see how much I care about their "whole learning."
5. Why did you choose to teach internationally?
I grew up with a mom from France and a dad from the US Virgin Islands. They met in Germany, so you know they were travelers as well! I was not happy at age eight when we moved to Morocco, because I was torn from my friends and all that I had known. But within a year, I was thrilled. I spent 10 years in Morocco, and it is now a large part of who I am. Since then, I have always traveled whenever I had the chance. The fact that I could connect my love of travel to my career was just a bonus.
6. What has surprised you about Brazil?
The number of people here - just the immensity of it. I like the smiles on peoples’ faces and the friendliness that you experience everywhere. It is so pleasant.
7. When and where were you happiest?
I have always been happy in nature, mostly when I’m under the sun. I love the beach, and I love to hear the waves.
8. What is it that you most dislike?
I cannot stand when people are dishonest. That is my biggest pet peeve. I also don’t particularly like coffee or chocolate. People think I am crazy.
9. What is your greatest extravagance?
I spend a lot of time and money traveling and enjoying very good food. I don’t mind spending a little more to have a party at the dinner table! I think that is where most of my money goes. Overall, relaxing and enjoying the good things in life make me the happiest.
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
What I like most about Graded is the international feel. It reminds me so much of my school in Morocco, and I think children are lucky to have an experience like this. I made lifelong friends from my elementary and high school experience overseas. I hope kids here get that, too.