In this post, we’d like to introduce you to another one of our amazing Education Specialists - Camila Perez!
Before joining the team at YokyWorks, Camila spent many years helping children to overcome adversity and develop their unique interests and strengths. After completing her degrees, she taught art classes and baking classes for children, led workshops in elementary schools to empower young girls, and spent several years working with a literacy non-profit. As she articulated, “All of these experiences helped grow my love of teaching and my conviction that all children need their teachers’ respect, empathy and support in order to thrive.”
We recently sat down with Camila to learn more about what makes her approach to teaching unique.
Sarah: You have a lot of different experience working with children. What first sparked your passion for literacy education?
Camila: Though my first job out of college was teaching fine art lessons to children, my passion for literacy was sparked by the two years I spent with AmeriCorps as a volunteer Site Coordinator for the literacy nonprofit Reading Partners. During that time I met many wonderful students with an urgent need for effective literacy intervention and support, and it was heartbreaking to see them struggling to succeed.
Sarah: What drew you to working with YokyWorks?
Camila: Meeting Jane and learning about her journey to creating the Milan method is what really ignited my desire to work for YokyWorks. It was clear to me that not only would I get to be a part of an important mission and serve children who need help, I would be doing it with the assurance that my work would have a positive impact on every student I encountered, and not just some of them. I am so grateful for the opportunity to share the magic of literacy with every single one of my students.
Sarah: What part of your job are you most passionate about?
Camila: I absolutely love meeting and getting to know new students, learning what makes them tick, and making them feel seen and empathized with as we build a strong relationship to support their learning. I get to do this as a teacher and as a creator of curriculum, where I get to write stories tailored to my students’ interests and abilities–which is super fun!
Sarah: You came to YokyWorks with some previous experience in literacy education. What most surprised you when you were training to become an education specialist at YokyWorks?
Camila: Before learning about YokyWorks and the Milan method, my belief was that all literacy programs for children were more or less alike in effectiveness, and that none of them could be expected to work for everyone. I also thought that reading education was relatively straightforward and that its starting point was learning the alphabet. I have learned so many fascinating things since then about the complexity of learning to read–like the interplay between spoken language and the written word–and I am still only scratching the surface.
Sarah: What do you like most about the Milan method approach?
Camila: I like that the Milan method approach is a never-give-up approach. It is believing that your student is capable of what you are asking and figuring out exactly what they need in order to get there, and being allowed to try it. Watching a student grow in confidence and independence never gets old, but seeing them overcome an obstacle they thought was insurmountable because of a strategy you shared with them is especially satisfying.
Sarah: How would you describe your personal teaching style?
Camila: I like to be very uncool and silly with my students, so that they feel comfortable and like we are on the same team. (I am normally a very cool person but I try my best). We are so often asking our students to do things that feel challenging and even scary, so it is so important to create a safe environment where I am the one responsible for errors when they are taking risks.
Sarah: I love that you use silliness to help your students feel safe! Here's a chance for you to be silly - If you could have any superpower, what would it be?
Camila: I would like to have an alter-ego, like the Mask, except she is just an exceptionally efficient housekeeper with super speed abilities. I would black out and then wake up to a spotless home an hour later. Then I would have so much extra time for all the baking, cooking, art projects, and reading that I love to do!