Each week through our Faculty Spotlight series, we invite our community members to get to know Gulliver Prep teachers across every division. Last week, we introduced Middle School’s Mr. James Johnson, and this week, our Faculty Spotlight features Upper School Science Faculty, Mrs. Carla Carmona. Read on to learn more!
Q: This year marks your first at Gulliver. What led you here?
A: A good friend of mine who works here at Gulliver (shout out to Mr. Quiros!) actually reached out to tell me about an opening for a biology teacher. He and I started our teaching career together at the same charter school over 10 years ago and have stayed close ever since. I mentioned to him when he first started at Gulliver to always keep me in mind if any biology opportunities came up. For the past three years, I was teaching at a charter school in Homestead and while the job was very demanding and fulfilling, I felt like I needed a change of scenery. Choosing Gulliver felt like a natural next step for me in my growth as an educator. I’ve really been fortunate to have had opportunities pop up in my life at just the right time. When this door opened, I just knew I had to walk through it and see where it would lead me. I’m happy to report that I am so glad I pursued this opportunity! I’m really enjoying being part of the Raider family.
Q: What is one thing people would be surprised to know about you?
A: If you catch me around campus on any given day, there’s a good chance that at least one of my articles of clothing I am wearing is hand-made. After having my daughter over six years ago, I went through some hard times emotionally. Postpartum hormones are no joke! I decided to take up a hobby and always wanted to know how to sew. I owned a sewing machine that was gifted to me back in middle school when I took a home ec class. Armed with my 20-year-old machine and my ability to sew only a straight line, I joined Facebook sewing groups and read as many blog posts on sewing that I could get my hands on. I started with some really simple projects like pencil pouches and pillows and progressed to making some simple dresses for my daughter. After a ton of practice, I tried making my first article of clothing for myself – a pair of leggings. I was hooked! I now am the proud owner of a couple of newer sewing machines and sew whenever I have a free day. Sewing has been a way for me to de-stress and get a mental health break; plus, I love making outfits for myself and my daughter. Every so often, my husband and stepson get a hand-made shirt but I really just love having this be a hobby that brings me and my daughter closer together.
Q: How did you discover that you loved science?
A: Some of my earliest memories involved nature and science. While my older sister and great childhood friend spent much of our childhood making up dances and playing pretend outside, I spent those times investigating nature. I remember having a huge poinciana tree in my yard that would release large seed pods about a foot long. Other kids in the neighborhood would use them as swords, but I was collecting the seeds from within those pods and comparing them to the other seeds I could find from other plants in the yard. I would catch butterflies and moths to identify them and even asked for a microscope for Christmas one year (I think I was about seven or eight at the time). I would hide in my closet where it was dark and look at specimens that I collected from my yard under the microscope. My childhood nerdiness really paid off I suppose because I ended up with the best job I could ever ask for!
Q: Why do you enjoy teaching science?
A: As a biology teacher, I feel like I get a chance to share some of my love for science on a daily basis and hopefully inspire my students to look at their everyday life and view it from a different lens. I also love getting hands-on when it comes to science. Although this school year has posed some challenges for hands-on labs due to social distancing measures to keep us safe, I have ideas up my sleeve to try and keep my students engaged and interested in learning science and am constantly finding ways to connect the content into their own personal lives. Biology is everywhere! So I may be biased, but it’s one of the most valuable subjects there is. As living and breathing organisms, I find value in learning about the natural world around us since we are part of that very system.
Q: You have a degree in biology and marine science, and have education experience in and outside of the classroom. Can you explain that a little, and talk about your career path?
A: When I first got accepted to the University of Miami, I actually started off pre-med with the goal of becoming a physician. Freshman year, I took a marine science course and realized that this was a path I really wanted to pursue. I took a couple of work studies at the university as a lab assistant studying red tide and classifying invertebrates. I quickly realized through those experiences that lab work was not necessarily in the cards for me. It wasn’t until I landed a job for Miami-Dade Parks and Recreation as an Interpretive Naturalist at Crandon Park that I realized that education was my passion. I loved being able to make all of the facts about nature that I had learned throughout the year accessible to park visitors. As an interpretive naturalist, I led kayak and snorkeling excursions, biking and hiking tours, and even enjoyed the opportunity to teach young summer campers! I also had the opportunity to work for the sea turtle program throughout my years working for the park. It was through this program that I was led to another opportunity as a formal teacher.
One evening, during a routine sea turtle release at Crandon Park, I met a woman who worked for what would become my first school in my career as a formal educator. She was blown away by my ability to keep her attention all night as I shared facts about the sea turtles that visit our South Florida beaches. After working for that school for almost seven years, another door opened. This time, it led me out of the classroom and back outside as the South Region Partnership Coordinator for the Florida Youth Conservation Centers Network, a division within Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission. I was back teaching kayaking, canoeing, and archery skills to educators all around the state. I got to meet the late President Bush, plan fishing and outdoor events around the state, and even traveled to different parts of the country I had never visited before. But something was missing. I really missed being back in the classroom. So off I went back into formal education armed with all the experiences from my prior jobs. This all eventually led me to my current home: Gulliver! I feel like if you’re on the right path in your life, doors will keep opening up in your favor if you keep your eyes open for them.
Q: What are your goals for this school year?
A: I have so many goals. I think my main goal is just finding my niche within this school and overall organization. Every teacher has something new to bring to the table that helps keep the overall momentum forward and I hope that the ideas I offer can help contribute to our overall goal of excellence. I also really want to make sure I take the time to really get to know and bond with my students. Those student-teacher relationships are so important. I feel like it’s been going very well so far.
Favorite meal: Sushi!
Last book you read: Marie Kondo’s “The Lifechanging Magic of Tidying Up.” I went on a home clean-up and purge during quarantine and it was the best thing ever!
A hobby you picked up or went back to during quarantine: I sewed almost 300 masks for friends, family, and donations during quarantine.
Last series you binged: “Schitt’s Creek”
Favorite recipe you discovered during quarantine: I’m OBSESSED with my Instant Pot! A family favorite is Chicken Chili. You can basically throw everything into the pot, let it cook, shred the chicken, add some final ingredients, and you’re done! Oh and everything takes a fraction of the time and very little mess!