1. Before coming to Brazil, you taught lower school in Houston, Paraguay, and Dubai. What thread of teaching or learning winds through those experiences and feeds into what you do at Graded?
Starting my teaching career in Houston allowed me to gain an in-depth knowledge of so many different skills and aspects of the general classroom. I initially began teaching with a specialization in English Language Arts/Literacy. Those were the only subjects I taught during my first two years of teaching. Specializing in these subject areas also opened doors for me to train and get certified in English as a Second Language (ESL). Teaching in private, public, and for-profit educational settings has broadened my experience and connections to so many different types of children and learners. These interpersonal skills and knowledge in language have allowed me to adapt myself and my teaching to fit the needs of my students, no matter where in the world I teach.
2. Why grade 4?
Just coincidence. I’ve always loved the upper grades. I started in grade 3, moved to grade 2, and then eventually found my home in grade 4. I feel a strong connection to this age level and content area. Students at any age have lots of potential and capabilities, but grade 4 seems to be the age when responsibility and accountability kick in for young learners. I feel kids in this grade are ready to take control of their learning experiences and drive in the direction they'd like their education to go.
3. You come from a family of artists. Tell more about that and about where art fits in your life.
My mother is a singer and actress, currently specializing in educational/historical theater. She performs historical reenactments of legendary people of the past. Throughout her reenactments, she speaks about the importance of reading and education. Her reenactments of Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad are based on “turning around and helping somebody” – mainly the young or those in need. She preaches about the power of reading and how books open worlds of opportunities. My father is a journalist and guitar player, and he was once a DJ. His passion for communications, expression, writing, and literature was a part of my childhood. In saying this, I think those traits have transcended into my career choices. As an educator, my first priority is making sure all of my students learn compassion for all people in the world, grow strengths in literacy, and become effective communicators.
4. Who is the greatest leader of all time?
In my view, Mohammed Ali and Mother Teresa are the top two greatest leaders of all time. Ali courageously spoke out for human rights and racial equality during one of the most conflicted times in American history. Mother Teresa selflessly spent most of her life helping those in need. Courage and sacrifice are two traits that amazing leaders possess. Those leaders give more than themselves for what others need.
5. Did you work while you were in high school or college? What kind of jobs did you have?
I did. I worked lots of different jobs including front desk clerk at the YMCA, an instructor at a private Catholic school, a full-time nanny, and a receptionist. Before I started teaching, I worked for four years in real estate as an assistant to brokers and agents. I also started a small pet care business. Both of the last two jobs were enjoyable and fulfilling. I learned a lot!
6. If you could write a best-selling book, what would you write about?
I would probably write a book about the faith and endurance everyday people have in following their dreams and living out their lives to the greatest purpose. There are so many amazing “normal” people walking around these days, people who are doing extraordinary things to make our world a better place. I’d hope a book like that would encourage others to take advantage of the good we all can do to make everyone’s lives better. Folks always love a good self-help or trials and tribulations story. I know I do.
7. What’s the best way to resist peer pressure?
Building your own sense of self and having a strong identity helps a lot, but that definitely takes time.
8. You love animals. Tell more about your experiences founding and owning a small animal care business.
It was a fun opportunity that came along after pet-sitting for a couple of friends. They told their friends, and then they told their other friends, and it just began from there. The business catered to owners of large dogs and exotic animals, such as iguanas, diabetic cats, and snakes. I never knew how lucrative pet sitting and animal care could be. However, once I was able to make a name for myself and maintain a steady clientele, I realized how much work actually went into running a business. I had a great time caring for so many different types of pets and helping people find someone they trusted to keep their animals safe. It’s definitely something I would love to do again.
9. What’s something about you that no one knows?
I have a nostalgic love for Winnie the Pooh. I still have a huge Winnie the Pooh bear in my mom’s storage unit that I got as a gift for my 16th birthday!
10. What is your favorite thing about Graded?
My favorite thing about Graded is my students and their families! I’ve loved building relationships with each of my students. They have so much light and love to spread. I hope that I can help them maintain that light and continue to spread love no matter where they go in this world. Oh, and I love Dona Emilia’s lunches.