Hometown: Pittsburgh, PA
Education: Washington and Lee University—B.A., University of Virginia—M.A.
Year Appointed: 1998
Current Position: Faculty—Fourth and Fifth Grade
After graduating from Washington and Lee, where I received my undergraduate degree in History and Journalism, I got a student-teaching job at Potomac School in McLean, Virginia. I was working with a recruiting firm to find my first official teaching job and interviewed at North Cross. Liz Holt hired me and I started as a fourth grade teacher in the fall of 1998.
When did you move from fourth to fifth grade?
I think I taught fourth grade for about five years before moving to fifth. At the time I was also working to earn my Masters in Education Administration from UVa. From the beginning, Liz really gave me the latitude to explore and teach my own way.
Is that what led to the first Fifth Grade Battle?
Liz’s freedom and trust definitely allowed me to try such a unique approach to teaching. Our first battle was the first year I started teaching fifth grade and it wasn’t really a battle at all. It was more of a march of Greek soldiers. The next year was a march of the Roman soldiers and my third year was our first official battle. We reenacted a battle between the Romans and Celtic barbarians. The students that participated in that very first battle are now seniors and about to graduate.
The battle has turned into such a big North Cross tradition; when do you start preparing for it each year?
Well, first of all, I would never be able to do it without the support from my students and their parents. They put so much time and effort into making costumes and the authentic-looking wooden gear used in the battle, and it would not be possible without their willingness to help. The entire event is scripted and choreographed so it takes a bit of time to plan. We usually decide on the battle in the fall and start making the equipment right after the holidays. Then, in the spring, we have about two weeks of hard core rehearsal before the actual event.
We all know you as a history buff. Where did your love of history begin?
Both of my parents grew up in Spain, and I grew up going to Spain every summer to visit my family. The Spanish culture is so rich with history so I learned to love it by living it, but it also comes from a love of reading and storytelling. I always saw my parents with a book. History is a story and I always liked to escape into that world. Everyone thinks history is my favorite thing to teach, and it is, but secretly I am proud of teaching my students to love good books and to write and to diagram sentences as well. I get as much a kick out of seeing them identify a prepositional phrase or a dependent clause as I do anything. It is rewarding to see them succeed in anything.
What do you enjoy most about teaching in the lower school?
I like telling the students stories or showing them cool things like an old Twilight Zone episode or a big Greek battle shield and seeing their eyes light up. My fourth and fifth graders are hungry to learn and I like being the one that feeds them. I have to give it to them; the academic rigor is tough and the expectations for them are high, but it pays off in the long run. I think the fact that North Cross is a community that allows students to be themselves and express themselves is really important. That, in turn, helps them learn and grow as students. I love that my son, Joaquin, is here. I feel like he is having a lower school experience that I wish I had had as a kid.