I believe that I am able to be the teacher I am because I am always listening to my students. I try to be as attentive as possible to their needs and my position allows me to dedicate the one-on-one time they desire. I feel fortunate to be able to be in this profession because of my love for kids. I always wanted to be able to surround myself with children and an added bonus is being able to help them learn and explore. Everyday I wish that my students have great experiences where they are comfortable exploring and learning; their happiness is my main goal.
I was born in Colombia and moved to Miami with my mother in 1996. I quickly embraced Miami’s diversity. From an early age, I was surrounded by a wide array of cultures and beliefs. It was for this reason that I learned to value individuality. Initially, I was pursuing a career in mass communications and journalism at Miami Dade College. Then I became a mother to two beautiful daughters, Laura and Sofia. I made a conscious effort to instill the same values in them that I had learned years before: to truly embrace their culture and individuality.
Becoming a mother peaked my interest in cognitive development, emotional growth, and a child’s desire to question, wonder, and invent. My daughters also helped me come to the realization that with growth come change, challenges, and endless learning. It started to become very clear to me that teaching was the perfect place to explore my passion.
I was blessed to take my first steps on the path to education at Shelton Academy's sister preschool, The Joy of Learning. The opportunity to document children’s learning seemed like the perfect fit given my previous background. I soon fell in love with the Reggio Emilia philosophy after discovering that my role included researching as well as being a co-learner within a culture of relationships.
After seven years at TJOL, I am thrilled to now be part of the Shelton Academy family! Becoming a member of this team allows me to continue to do what I love, as well as challenge myself with achieving new goals. I am eager to see how I grow with my students and guide them to love learning, embrace who they are, and make discoveries about themselves based upon their interests, just as I did.
Upper Academy Mathematics
I am a man of faith, a husband, father, teacher, and musician. I spent my first 29 years in education in Venezuela, where I worked as a professor specializing in middle school mathematics at Colegio Católico Manuel Muñoz Tébar in Caracas. Later on, I was also head of curriculum evaluation, chair of the math department, and a high school teacher.
As a professor at the Metropolitan University in Caracas, I taught various courses, including logistics, general and didactic math, statistics, social sciences, and finance. I hold a specialist's degree in technology, learning, and knowledge specialization. I am also specialized in educational leadership and curriculum design, and participated in various research projects in conjunction with professors from the Catholic University, Simón Bolívar University, and Central University of Venezuela. I developed an investigative project with an onto-semiotic focus for the teaching of mathematical objectives. Furthermore, I worked with a team of professors to assess the educational program at the Metropolitan University and was part of the psychometric team in the department of behavioral sciences there.
From 1985 to 2014, I was the director of the Catholic musical group Kerygma. From 1997 to 2000, I was a member of the pastoral council of the María Madre de la Iglesia parish.
Teaching math is my passion, and I feel blessed to have the ability to provoke learning processes in my students. Having reached a point in my life where I have been challenged to begin a new project in a different country, I have been pleasantly surprised that my path has crossed with those whom I am sure God has placed in my life. I believe that excellence is a process, and I am convinced that my vocation as a teacher places me in a position as a public servant. Finally, I am thankful for the families that place their trust in me so that together we may collaborate in the education of their children.
I was born and raised in Caracas, Venezuela. I am a lifelong learner. After I finished high school, I studied architecture for three years and then I got married and moved to Florida. After I learned the English language, I received a bachelor’s degree in human resources management from Trinity International University. I decided to start taking classes in the educational field soon after my third child was born. Later on, I earned my certificate in elementary education. I come from a family of educators. This is my seventeenth year teaching and every year my inspiration to teach grows more.
I believe that all children can learn, and I am here to help them become the best they can be! I love my work and I enjoy working with children because they are like raw diamonds that I can shape into precious stones. I like to see how much they learn and change during their school year and throughout the years. I want my students to have freedom and to express themselves through creativity.
I like my class to be organized in a creative way that makes my students feel safe and comfortable. I believe that high energy levels and a positive attitude are key to a successful learning environment. I consider teaching children a privilege as well as a tremendous responsibility. I believe my role as a teacher is to facilitate the students in their academic, social, and emotional growth. Learning is a lifelong process in which already existing knowledge and ideas are enriched with deeper understanding and insight. My goal every year is to maximize the students’ academic achievement. I love the exciting journey every day here with the wonderful Sheltonites!
During the past twenty years, I have been fortunate enough to teach a variety of subjects to a wide array of learners, ranging from elementary grades to adults. However, the one thing that has remained the same in my career is that I believe every child should be valued and treated with respect.
I am a caring, patient, and sensitive teacher who works well with students of various backgrounds and learning capabilities. I consider myself an organized, hard-working, and self-motivated educator who puts great effort into preparing my lessons while using multiple teaching strategies to keep my students focused and interested.
I grew up in New York City and earned my BA in Exceptional Student Education from Florida International University. I have been married twenty-three years and have two amazing sons.
In my spare time, I enjoy reading, cooking, and boating. I look forward to helping my students become responsible and independent children who love learning.
Upper Academy English Literature
I was born in New Jersey and raised in Miami, Florida. I have aspired to become a teacher since I was a very young girl and made every decision in life with that in mind. I graduated with honors from Florida International University, and could not wait to dive into a classroom and begin my career as an educator. I began working in schools in 2007 and was part of the Shelton family from 2013-2015. I feel honored to be part of the team once again!
As the 8th grade homeroom teacher, I am responsible for coordinating a series of memorable events that the graduates can take with them as they move on from Shelton and begin their paths in high school. It brings me such joy to be part of something so impactful. I also have the privilege of teaching English literature and writing.
I would not be where I am today without the educators I have had in my past that instilled this passion within me. I precisely remember the feelings my fourth grade teacher bestowed upon me when I was first introduced to writing with a purpose and reading to comprehend. It was never something that came naturally, but always something I aimed to succeed in because she believed in me. She was going to hold me accountable. If I didn’t understand, she was going to make me, and I was determined to improve; I wanted to make her proud. I aim to be that very teacher. I want my students to fall in love with literacy the way I have and learn the importance of perseverance. It may take a few drafts to produce an excellent piece of writing. It may take some time to identify elements within literature, but it is a journey we are on together. I am with them every step of the way. The moment that they smile a little brighter, stand a little taller, and realize just what they are capable of…that is why I teach. There is no feeling quite like a student awe-struck with a new discovery.
With every ounce of my being, I believe this path I have chosen is where I was destined to be. Over the past decade of working with diverse children of all ages, I look back upon how much each and every one of my students has inspired me. I reflect on lessons I have learned from fellow educators and public speakers such as James Comer, claiming that no significant learning can occur without a significant relationship. Year after year, I attempt to do just that: I dedicate all my efforts to teaching content as well as establishing a connection between my students and myself, hoping that connection will help my students retain the information as well as become lifelong learners.
My goal each and every day is to motivate my students by any means necessary. I want my students to look back and remember that I will always believe in them, even well after their time in my class is done, and no matter what they become in their adult lives. Ultimately, I want them to believe in themselves and never set limitations for what they are capable of.
Library Coordinator & MUN Advisor
"A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one." –George R.R. Martin
I hold a degree in communications, film, and television. For 18 years, I worked in the entertainment field. As a journalist, my hobby and passion was the ability to tell stories through the written word or the television screen. As a literature professor’s daughter, I grew up among books and learned very early on to love reading. One of the keys for that love to be birthed in me was the ability to have the right book in my hands—that book that was simple, fun, and held me captive within its pages until its very end. These same books were the ones I fell in love with.
As a library coordinator, my goal is that the students not only make great gains in their reading levels, but also that they experience that same passion for a good book.
Shelton Academy, in its constant efforts to raise academic standards, implements the Accelerated Reader (AR) program, whose aim is to increase the levels of understanding of the students through daily reading. The success of this program lies in the choice of the ideal book, both in interest and degree of difficulty.
In our library and media center, children find all the tools to dream and grow! It’s a joy for me to be there right alongside them on this journey.
I am originally from Nicaragua but was raised in Miami, Florida. Growing up I had a couple of teachers who instilled in me a love for education and they were some of the people who inspired me to become an educator. For me, teaching is a challenging, creative, and meaningful way to help students see their own potential.
I graduated from Florida International University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology. Soon after, I obtained my preschool certification. I have worked with young children for several years in Miami, as well as in Nicaragua.
I believe that each child is a unique individual who needs a secure, caring, and stimulating environment in which to grow and mature emotionally, intellectually, physically, and socially. It is my goal as a teacher to help students meet their fullest potential in these areas. In addition, I aspire to bring an open mind, a positive attitude, and high expectations to the classroom each day. I believe that I owe it to my students to convey consistency, diligence, and warmth in my job with the hopes that I can ultimately inspire and encourage such traits in the children as well.
I was born in Cuba and came to Miami when I was two years old. I am the mom of three beautiful kids: Angel, Jonathan, and Olivia. Ever since I was a little girl I wanted to help children, take care of them, and teach them. When I was 15 years old, I began volunteering at a day care, and that's when I fell in love with teaching. I have been working in schools for over 11 years now. I think educating children is the most gratifying and rewarding job in the world! I'm proud to say I have been working at Shelton since its first year and it has been a wonderful experience. I look forward to many more years with my Shelton family!
Maria Victoria Olavarrieta
The teacher I am today I owe to my family, my religion, and the wonderful educators who have molded and inspired me.
I had to overcome many obstacles to receive schooling, because at the time that I lived in Cuba, a practicing Catholic could not study psychology, journalism, or education. When I had to choose my profession, I asked myself: which occupation would most help humanity? I had to make many sacrifices to graduate as a teacher, but these experiences made me strong and they instilled in me what I now instill in my students: everything that is worthwhile does not come easy.
I treasure and value my position at Shelton Academy. It is here that I can teach Spanish literature and at the same time fill the students’ minds with values and good habits that will accompany them for the rest of their lives. Every day, I know that I have in front of me the men and women of the future, and I feel a great sense of responsibility because parents have entrusted me with their children.
For me, my job is the most important in the world: to make of these children good citizens who will transform this world into a better place in which to live. Teachers hold the future in their classrooms.
I believe that love is the most powerful force in the world and the best medicine to cure all ailments. Tenderness is the key that opens all hearts. With this in mind, in my spare time I collaborate with the collection of clothing, toys, and school supplies for the orphanage Misioneros del Camino in Guatemala. I’m also a catechism teacher and an active member of my parish. Every so often, I write editorials that have been published in the Miami Herald, as well as articles on education for the blog ASOPAZCO (Asociación Para la Paz Continental) in Spain, country where I taught for several years.
Upper Academy Social Studies & MUN Advisor
"There are no great limits to growth because there are no limits of human intelligence, imagination, and wonder." –Ronald Reagan
The path to education and knowledge was very important for me to follow. Without hesitation, I decided to pursue a career in education and devote my life to teaching social studies. I was blessed with the opportunity to join the Shelton family and hope to expand my knowledge of the world through my students.
Before I became an educator, I was an avid basketball player. I was awarded a scholarship to play the sport at Elms College in 2007. I came home that same year and continued my education at Miami-Dade College, where I earned my associates degree in history. My passion for this subject led me to Florida International University, where that passion grew and extended further beyond just studying world civilizations. I've had the opportunity to learn from top scholars. My area of expertise ranges from the dominant and precious Roman-Greco era, to the prominent, contemporary history of the United States. Upon the completion of my degree, I wanted to showcase my knowledge to young, aspiring students. My style of teaching is unique and has proven to be effective!
In order for an educator to truly appreciate the fine aspects of teaching, he must respect his motives for educating. I teach history in a manner that my students can understand the past and utilize it in order to become something great. There were many historical figures and events that shaped the way we view the world. By comprehending our history, we can ultimately mold the way we think, act, and change. Upon doing so, the next step for achieving and finding one’s true self can come in the form of finally answering life’s great questions about the world. My students will be able to think critically and solve major world problems. They will also be able to act accordingly and professionally around their peers. Finally, they will be able to change in a positive and caring manner. These traits will propel all of my students to excel and succeed in their lives. There is nothing more important than having these ideologies become my true motives for teaching.
English Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL)
I have wonder and admiration for all acts that encourage others in positivisim, to grow and share and generously guide to the pursuit of knowledge, virtues, and happiness.
My belief and my way to give back includes conviction on the cause and effect process of this approach and its outcomes, all which changes lives through kindness and persistance, through understanding and practice, always with care and patience.
Having studied social and political sciences abroad, my choice was and still is to fulfill my most essential passion, which is to guide children in their learning process and in the building of their positive self esteem, assisting to prepare their foundations for a life of achievements.
This is my belief, my choice, my calling, and my pursuit. It is my way of being part of the understanding and enjoying of a great life.
At the age of seven, I moved to Miami from my native Cuba. At first, I experienced a very difficult time in school due to the language barrier. This allows me to relate to many of the students that I have encountered in my classroom throughout the years. As I quickly picked up on the English language as a child and due to my dedicated and supporting teachers, I started to really enjoy learning. Having such wonderful support system at home and in school sparked the love of teaching in me. At a very young age, I knew I’d be a teacher someday.
In high school, I was part of the “Falcon’s Nest,” a day care set up within our school for the teachers’ children. The high school students would manage the daycare, providing the children with everything from food to curriculum. Through this program, I acquired forty hours of certification in early childhood. I had a wonderful experience there, and it is where I truly felt a connection with children and education. As soon as I graduated, I worked at an elementary after school program, where I would remain for seven years. I attended Carlos Albizu University, where I earned my bachelor's degree in elementary education (K-6th), endorsed in reading and ESOL.
Throughout my career, I have learned about many theories. I find myself taking a little piece from each theory and putting into practice what works best with my students. I most certainly put into practice the behaviorist theory, where I reward good behavior, stimulating the children to be at their best at all times. I also put into action the constructivism theory, building students' knowledge based on what they already know, while also reinforcing and facilitating the learning of that which they don’t yet know.
At Shelton Academy, putting into practice the Reggio Emilia approach has been very natural for me. It is here that I am able to enrich and support the students in a learning environment where we all get to be creative with our lessons!
Dean of Students
I’ve been involved in the arts since I was three years old. I danced flamenco, played guitar, and sang in a band. Performing was my life from an early age. When I finished high school, I chose to be involved in the family business and earned a bachelor’s degree in management. I opened up my own flamenco dance school as a hobby. Eventually, I owned three dance schools, which certainly required putting my management skills to work! Having a dance school opened up new opportunities for me. I was now teaching! When instructing a child how to dance, one comes across all types of students.
I fell in love with this new opportunity, and so I went back to school to obtain my Bachelor of Science degree in Elementary Education, coupled with one in counseling.
I fell so deeply in love with my educational career that it was the road I passionately pursued. When I came to the United States in 2000, I could see that the educational system was lacking in what it had to offer my four children. It was at this point that I decided to open up my own school.
I earned my Director's Credentials at the Advanced Level by the Florida Department of Children and Families and went on to specialize in multiple intelligences at Harvard University in Boston, which gave me the best tools to understand that every child is unique. Education for me is meant to touch lives forever; to plant a seed in each child’s life and see it grow. As teachers, we have their lives in our hands.
“It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.” –L.R. Knost
Voted Teacher of the Year 2017
When I was in first grade, I decided that I wanted to be a teacher just like Mrs. Román, whose last name was coincidentally the same as mine, although we were not related. She taught me that there is a song for every lesson. She allowed me to explore books for fun and helped me discover a whole new world through reading. Mr. Santiago, my art history teacher in high school, walked me through the most amazing experience of learning about art from all around the world and from all ages. As my role models, Mrs. Román and Mr. Santiago inspired me to become who I am as a teacher today.
My path for the past couple of years includes learning from artists while working at the Museo de Arte de Puerto Rico; being an instrument to motivate teenagers who want to drop out of school; letting gifted children inspire me; and learning from the little ones while working in the early education field. These experiences make me the teacher that I am today. Relocating from city to city and meeting people from different cultures have changed my perspective in education and how I embrace diversity through it.
The most exciting thing about teaching is when the students take the initiative and you find the right tools, words, and resources to motivate them to make a project. When they are engaged during their creative process, it opens up an opportunity for them to establish a meaningful conversation with their classmates. It’s amazing to see all the things you can learn from their conversations and the laughs that they bring to you on a daily basis.
I would love to transmit my positive energy, curiosity, and creativity to the students, but I want them to discover it by themselves, perhaps inspired by me. If I am able to help my students develop their creativity, I am promoting critical thinking, and both skills are necessary for problem-solving. Through education, we are supporting the leaders of the future who will be agents to solve the issues that our society faces day by day. Education is the key to a better world.
In my free time, I love to rollerblade, dance, hike, and of course, do art. Xylography (wood engraving) is my specialty. Hiking and going to the beach are the relaxing activities that boost my energy. I am part of the National Art Education Association, and attend a yearly convention to learn innovative and inventive ways to teach art to all ages.
I had the pleasure of graduating from Florida International University with cum laude honors, which prepared me to take teaching to a new level. This new method of educating motivated me to promise myself that I would carefully look at each of my student’s individual needs and try my hardest to meet them. I can say that I was that child who had that one teacher who inspired me to want to become one. It was this teacher, and many more who came across my path, that helped mold me into the person and educator that I am today.
It is my job to inspire my students to learn. Yet it is the students who teach me on a daily basis. Their curiosity leads me to create lessons that are meaningful and motivating, lessons that tie in the real world with our everyday learning in class. I have instilled the idea that in my class we are a family. We will function like a small community, we will help one another, and we will work as a team. Teaching them to behave in such a way will prepare them for the time when they will eventually become adults, and will need to work in union among their coworkers.
My passion for recycling has also made me an ideal individual to continue the school’s efforts in keeping the facilities eco-friendly. In class, I constantly encourage my students to “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without.” This valuable quote reminds students to use their resources in class wisely. Teaching small children to recycle within our classroom, school, and homes will also be a constant reminder that we need to care for our planet as well. There really are no limits in teaching, and I am fortunate that I have such an amazing career in which I have the pleasure of working alongside many knowledgeable and creative individuals.
Upper Academy Science
Being a teacher is the toughest position I have ever held. The responsibility a teacher has to her students can be overwhelming; it is not for the weak-spirited.
As I reflect on my educational adventures, I recall the teachers that could make the most boring of subjects come alive through their own personal stories. While the flashy stuff entertained, it was the time invested in me that had the greatest impact on my life. As a child I thought teachers were the exception; imagine my dismay when I saw my teacher grocery shopping!
Every day I strive to lift up my students, parents, and co-workers with encouraging words, never underestimating their significance in my life. Stepping into my classroom each day is the equivalent of giving my last lecture. Time lapses so quickly and I have so much to share. I do not want to give the impression that all days go smoothly, but I can say that lessons are learned every day. The one aspect of teaching that most excites me is the blessings and challenges that each day brings. Going outside the norm is lonely and sometimes misunderstood, but it could be the chance to make a difference in a student’s life.
I did not choose this wonderful profession, even though I recognize that we are all lifelong learners. It was the keen eye of a spectator that recognized abilities I did not see in myself. Teachers have a keen ability to recognize and nurture abilities we do not always recognize.
My family and I love to travel. My fondest journey was our car trip from Miami to Canada, returning to Miami one month later. I enjoy camping, hiking, and going out on our ATV. I have a Big Cypress National Preserve ORV Operator’s License. I have been a member of the National Association of Professional Women since 2014, and I am also CPR AED certified by the American Heart Association. Finally, I enjoy the finer things in life, not the materialism.
I believe that teaching is not just my profession, but also a gift that was bestowed upon me by my heavenly Father. The love and passion that I have for teaching makes me the teacher that I am. It’s not only about motivating my students to learn, but teaching them how to learn, and doing so in a manner that is relevant, meaningful, and memorable to them. It’s about caring for each of them as I care for my very own. To me, it’s an honor to be a teacher; after all, I am helping to build the future leaders of our country!
I think what excites me most about teaching is seeing students reach their full potential. That spark that they get in their eyes when the concept or lesson is finally clear to them is priceless. Knowing that I had something to do with that is so very rewarding to me. Those times help to build such special relationships with my students that are so very special to me. My students leave footprints in my heart that last a lifetime.
I chose this profession because I love to help children reach for the moon, because even if they fall, they will fall among stars. I want to be the one person who helps them achieve their dreams. I will be there cheering them on all the way to see their dreams become a reality. What I would want to transmit to my students is to strive to be the very best they can be, to respect each other, to have a sense of value, and to look in the mirror and see what God sees.
Music & Drama
As a music educator, I think it is extremely important to be inclusive. Music education in schools is not just for especially talented students, but for every student. I come from a family of amateur musicians. Family reunions meant parents and uncles grabbing an instrument and a bunch of harmonizing aunts singing Puerto Rican Christmas songs. I also had the experience of studying at Puerto Rico’s acclaimed Escuela Libre de Música (Free School of Music), where not only did I learn to play an instrument, but I was also part of an awesome choir and different music ensembles. Most children don’t have that kind of experience or background, and therefore my primary job as a teacher is to help them discover their musical nature and to connect with it.
The stage and the performance aspect of my career are definitely a big plus, but after the lights go down, the curtains close, and I am back in the classroom the morning after the show, that is when the best comes. There is no experience quite as rewarding as being able to witness the expression of that student who is struggling to match a pitch and finally sings in tune, or to observe the face of a second grader who is trying really hard to play “low D” in the recorder and is finally be able to hit it!
There are also some teachers in my family. One of them is my grandmother, a creative and enthusiastic educator who retired in 1991. She inspired me to become a teacher myself. Nevertheless, the road to finding that out what was not necessarily a smooth one. In 1989, when I graduated high school, I began to study business administration. Almost three years passed, and eventually I dropped out of college feeling really uncertain about my future. During the summer of 1992, I stayed in Alajuela, Costa Rica, where I made a living teaching piano. When I returned home, I was clear about what I wanted pursue as a career. During the past eighteen years, I have been really fortunate that teaching has taken me to so many different places, from the public schools in New York City to four different international schools in the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, and Mexico.
I always tell my students that they don’t have to become a professional singer or musician in the future, but to try to experiment with as many different forms of art as possible. I also repeatedly tell them that it is what you learn and experience that nobody can take away from you. It is for that reason that I am involved in all of the performing arts aspects of our school. I am lucky to direct Shelton Academy’s choir as well as our school’s holiday and spring musicals. In the afternoons, I teach piano as part of Shelton’s after school program, and I also lead a theater workshop for children.