Teacher Spotlight: Karri Gomez

Even when she was young and living in the tiny town of Ponca City, Oklahoma — a town so small that there wasn’t even a McDonald’s until she turned 13 — Karri Gomez knew exactly what she wanted to do with her life.

“I’ve always wanted to be a teacher. My family was either in teaching, farming, or insurance — there was no in between. My parents, aunts, and uncles were teachers. I’ve always had a natural knack for communication and reaching kids,” said Gomez. “I learned [from my family] at a very early age that teaching was more than giving instruction in a classroom setting: it’s about building confidence and life skills.”

Over the years, Gomez watched her family make a difference in their students’ lives and became inspired to do the same in her future classroom. She believes that every experience you have molds you. She moved around frequently as a child, and those experiences strongly affect her approach to teaching. She’s conscious of how every child feels in her classroom and remembers what she would have wanted as a new student.

“We moved around a lot, and when we moved, I got to experience being the new kid — sometimes good, sometimes bad,” said Gomez. “I had teachers that were empathetic and teachers that weren’t. It really taught me what it’s like for a child to experience being new, and I would never want someone to experience the negative things that I did; I really want them to experience the positive things. I want to create an enriching and engaging classroom where students enjoy the learning process.”

In Gomez’s classroom, she makes the curriculum come alive, whether it’s through solving exciting “classroom crimes” with interactive clues or by sharing funny, relatable stories. You’ll never find her at her desk; she’s constantly involved with her students, joyful as she watches them discover new information.

“I’ll teach any grade level, I love them all! But third grade is so much fun. What’s so amazing about this age group is this is when they start to develop their own voice and personality. They take what they’ve learned and really start to apply it,” said Gomez. “They become more independent and mature learners; they become more advanced readers, writers, mathematicians, and thinkers. We go deeper into topics and the students can relate the content to their personal life and experience. This shows up in their writing and everything becomes more personal. It’s so much fun watching them grow throughout the year!”

Not only does Gomez help students grow academically, but spiritually. At the top of every assignment, each student’s paper is headed with Philippians 4:13: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” She loves sharing the Word of God with them and loves watching their eyes light up in the faith-filled moments

“As a teacher, I always say a prayer about the class I’m going to get,” said Gomez. “It’s not so much, “How am I going to get through all this material?” It’s, “Open my eyes to what they need. How can I help them? Who needs help academically? Who needs to challenged? Who is lacking in self-confidence?”

Throughout the year, Gomez gets to know each student as an individual and encourages them to push through challenges. It’s important that each child understands how capable they are and that they can always lean on the Lord, because He will always be there for them.

“I never look at what I do as a job; I love working with my students. I love that I get to learn with them. Building a strong rapport with students is the key to a successful learning experience,” said Gomez. “Students have to know they can come to you. You have to be there for [students] and get to know them. They have to know I’m going to help them, be there for them, and cheer them on.”

As an Orlando private school, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

How to Prepare for The Advent Season

Christmas season is right around the corner! Our Orlando private school community is excited for the upcoming festivities to celebrate Jesus’ birth. But before then, we want to take time to observe Advent. This is the perfect time to slow down, focus on the meaning of the season, and deepen our relationship with Christ.

Practice Silence
Between holiday parties and social commitments, Christmas is often a loud and busy time. In contrast, Advent is a time to be quiet! Dedicate the beginning of each day to nurturing your relationship with Him by praying for a friend, reading your favorite Bible story, or listening to your favorite worship music on the drive to work.

Advent Wreath
An Advent wreath represents Christ’s eternal love for us. On the wreath, there are four candles: three purple and one pink. There’s also a white candle in the center of the wreath. The purple candles represent our preparation for the Messiah through things such as prayer and fasting, the pink candle represents our joy for His coming, and the white candle — also called the Christ Candle — represents His purity and ability to wash away our sins. The colored candles are lit each Sunday to remind us of the light Christ delivers compared to the darkness of sin.

Give to Charity
God calls us to serve others, and Advent is in the heart of the giving season! There’s a surplus of giving opportunities around the holidays, so consider donating your time to serving your community. If free time is scarce during the busy holiday season, you and your family could also set money aside to give toward the charity of your choosing.

Daily Devotional
Sometimes what we need is a small dose of nourishment through a devotional. This can be done on your own, or you can gather friends and family to complete the devotionals together. You may be surprised how many people would love some company while digging into the Bible! You can hold each other accountable, help answer each other’s questions, and encourage one another when you become frustrated or confused.

Nightly Bible Time
Children greatly benefit from observing the Advent season! If you don’t already have nightly Bible time, Advent is an excellent opportunity to spend evenings talking about the Bible together. As Christmas gets closer, spend your time reading about the birth of Jesus, and talk to your children about what we can learn from Advent.

As an Orlando private school, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

Finish School Projects Quickly and Efficiently

There’s only so many hours in a day. It can be hard to schedule enough time for homework, much less fit in group projects, where you have to coordinate your schedule with classmates. St. Charles Borromeo, a College Park private school, loves the collaboration and teamwork that happens in group projects — they’re great practice for the future! Here are a few tips for making them as quick, efficient, and stress-free as possible.

Assign and Record Tasks

Start by having a conversation as a whole team about what needs to be done, and make sure no one leaves before you’ve decided who is responsible for what. You can save a lot of time by first deciding who is going to take on each part of the project! You don’t have to worry about two people doing the same thing — or risk an important step being skipped. Make a record of who has what job, when they need to finish by, and how the team can help them.

Communicate Often

If you need help from another group member or have a question, make sure you communicate this as soon as possible. When you talk early and often, you can prevent small problems from becoming big problems. Decide on the best communication method, such as a group texting app, and set a rule for how often members have to check their messages and respond accordingly.

Don’t Wait to Start Your Work

Treat your group project with the same care that you’d give your own work. Don’t put your work aside until the last minute; you may end up needing help from a team member that they don’t have time to give, or you might not have enough time to finish your part. Treat your team members the same way you wish to be treated!

Support Your Teammates

Everyone loves knowing that their work is appreciated. One way you can help your project succeed is by supporting your team. If someone did an amazing job, congratulate them! If someone helped out without being asked, thank them. And if someone’s struggling to get their part done, reach out and ask how you can help. This level of support is key for getting good work done fast.

St. Charles Borromeo and other College Park private schools aren’t the only places your child will experience group projects. Most of our lives include working with other people to get something done. By using these tips, you can put together a project deserving of that A grade — and you can get it done long before it’s due.

Teacher Spotlight: Lillie Gelfand

Lillie Gelfand’s whole life was in Florida. But when her husband was transferred up north, she moved to Connecticut. He thrived in the icy winters and she loved watching him thrive, even though she preferred the warm.

“It was heaven for him, freezing for me!” said Gelfand. “He was also a trumpet player — an amazing trumpet player, a performance trumpet player. He graduated from Julliard. My husband was only 45 years old; he was so young, he passed away unexpectedly. It was a shock. I came back [to Florida] alone and started over by myself, trying to grasp what was happening in my life.”

Upon returning to Florida, Gelfand first went to Palm Beach County, where there was the comfort of friendly faces and familiar places. But it was challenging to return to a place where she’d spent so much time with her husband, and she was ready to start over. However, she still loved Palm Beach County and her memories of growing up surrounded by music. She discovered her passion at age 10 when she learned to play the trumpet. This led her to join the band at Fort Lauderdale High School later on, and during her senior year, her band director had two different guests come to class.

The first was a composer from a university in Tennessee. They were playing his music, and one of his pieces had two difficult trumpet solos — and Gelfand got to play both. “He was the first person who ever said to me, ‘You should go to college and major in music.’ It had never entered my mind to do that, ever,” said Gelfand.

The second guest, the orchestra director from Brown Community College, said something similar: “‘I want you in my orchestra. I want you to come major in music.” Thus, Brown Community College became the place where Gelfand began her musical education, before going on to graduate from Florida Atlantic University.

Gelfand spent the early years of her teaching career in Palm Beach County. After moving back from Connecticut, she interviewed at St. Charles Borromeo, but decided to return home to Palm Beach, where she started two part-time jobs that she loved. But when spring break of 2014 came around, Gelfand came to Orlando for her daughter’s wedding — and she got a phone call.

“I was still up here because I was watching her dog, and it was my spring break. I answered the phone because it was an Orlando area code. It was the same principal who had tried to hire me previously, and she asked if I would reconsider taking the job; she asked when I could come to Orlando. I went over that same day and talked to her,” said Gelfand. “I wanted a fresh start, my daughter was here, and I was getting offered this job a second time. I was thinking, ‘There must be a reason. God must want me to be at this school for some reason. I’m going to take this job.’”

In the five years since Gelfand accepted the position, she’s loved watching the music program flourish. Just this year, the band has grown from seven students to 38, and the chorus from 15 to 35. She’s enjoyed singing fun, silly songs with three-year-olds; she’s watched 8th graders create impressive TV jingles; she’s taught students everything from musical composition to famous composers to how music affects our daily lives.

“I see kids who have never, ever read music or picked up an instrument, and have no idea what’s happening — get it. It’s the joy of what I do,” said Gelfand. “I absolutely love being able to watch my students grow and see what they accomplish. That’s the reason I love working at a PreK-8 school. I always tell them, my goal isn’t to make music teachers out of you! My goal is to share my passion for music with you; my knowledge. And to give you the opportunity to do something you never thought could do, which is to play music or perform onstage. I’ve had parents tell me how they can tell I love what I do, and that’s what I want. I hope my students get that I do what I do because I love it, and I want to share that with them.”

As a private school in Orlando, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

How to Throw an All Saints Day Party

November 1st is All Saints Day! This is a time for us to remember the saints and celebrate them with our friends and family. As an Orlando private school, St. Charles Borromeo loves to see our community partake in these celebrations alongside the people who matter most. If you’re considering throwing an All Saints Day Party this year, take a look at some fun games to incorporate!

Angel Food Cupcake Walk
Snacks are one of the best parts of any party — especially for young kids. Why not combine a treat with a game? Print out pictures of saints for your kids and their friends to stand in front of. Write down the names of each saint, and then put them in a hat. Draw a name, and whoever is standing by that saint wins a cupcake! Want to add an extra layer of excitement? Tape pictures of saints to chairs and turn this into a game of musical chairs, or ask children to give a fact about the saint before rewarding them with a treat.

Halo Party Favors
Need a fun, simple party favor? Try glow sticks. You can put together glow stick halos for each guest, or let them pick their own colors and create their own halo. These “bracelet halos” are an easy way to set the mood and help everyone remember the reason for celebration.

Pin The Halo on The Saint
Put a spin on an old classic with a picture of a saint, a paper halo, some tape, and a blindfold. Apply the same rules for Pin the Tail on the Donkey. Just place the blindfold on a player, spin them 3 times (or more or less, depending on the age of your players), and see if they succeed in pinning the halo on the saint.

Saint Freeze Tag
Now that cooler weather is approaching, it’s time to take the games outside! Everyone can challenge their own knowledge of saints with this twist on freeze tag. Whenever someone is tagged and frozen, they have to say the name of a saint to unfreeze. The hard part? You can’t repeat a name!

Our community at St. Charles Borromeo wishes you and your family a happy All Saints Day! As an Orlando private school, our staff is committed to proclaiming the Gospel Message of Jesus Christ. We believe in teaching the whole child and want students to love learning, helping them grow into well-rounded, contributing members of society. Learn more about us by contacting us here.

Fall Recipes to Make With Your Child

One of the best ways to ring in the new season is with fall-themed sweets! As an Orlando private school, St. Charles Borromeo believes in spending intentional time with your children, and baking these treats together is the perfect bonding activity. Here are a couple of easy ideas that fit perfectly into a Saturday afternoon with the kids:

Pumpkin Seed Trail Mix

After carving pumpkins, you will likely have a lot of pumpkin seeds lying around! Try throwing them into this tasty mix. Preheat your oven to 300 degrees. Then help your child mix together 1 cup of pumpkin seeds, ¾th cup of raw sunflower seeds, 1 cup of slivered almonds, and 5 tablespoons maple syrup. Spread the mixture onto a lined cookie sheet, sprinkle with coarse salt, and bake for 20 minutes. You’ll need to stir the mix once or twice to make sure everything bakes evenly. Once out of the oven, break it into pieces and add in some dried fruit and white chocolate chips. Yum!

Candy Cornucopia

All you need to create this are ice cream cones and candy! Dip the bottom inch of a sugar cone into a glass of water, and then sprinkle a few extra drops of water into the cone as well. Stick each cone individually into the microwave for 30 seconds. While it’s warm and soft, take a pencil and twist the tip of the cone around it until it resembles the tip of a cornucopia. Leave the pencil there for a few seconds until the shape holds. Once you fill the cone with fall-themed candy, wrap the finished product in a baggie. Tie a verse on thankfulness, such as 1 Chronicles 16:34, to the baggie with an orange ribbon, and you have the perfect gift!

Fall Leaf Cookies

Add a seasonal twist to your favorite cookie recipe with food coloring and cookie cutters. Split your dough into three even sections and add red, orange, or yellow food coloring to each section. Now, split your colored balls into even smaller balls, piece them back together like a checkerboard, and roll out the dough. Finally, use a leaf cookie cutter to carve out fall-colored cookies.

We hope you enjoy making (and eating) these treats! Help your children practice measurements as they help with baking — this will help them apply skills they’re learning in the classroom in a way that’s fun and delicious. If you’re looking to enroll your children in an Orlando private school that values both education and faith, visit us at St. Charles Borromeo! We’d love to have you as part of our community.

Celebrate National Good Neighbor Day

September 28th is National Good Neighbor Day! As an Orlando private school, St. Charles Borromeo teaches our students to share the love of Jesus with everyone around them — and this holiday is the perfect time to do that. We aim to be good neighbors throughout the entire year, but we’re excited to take this opportunity to go above and beyond, especially as many neighborhoods welcome new families at the start of a school year.

Follow the Commandments

As Jesus explains in Matthew 22:36-39, the most important commandment is to love God, and the second is to love your neighbor as you would love yourself. On the surface level, it may be easy to assume He means that we should simply be kind to others, and while being kind is a good start, we can do better than that.

Take the First Step

Can you name all of your neighbors? You’d be surprised how many people are unaware of who lives right next door! Reach out to your neighbor, and introduce yourself. There’s a vulnerability that comes with putting yourself out there and taking that first step, but oftentimes, people are hoping someone else will take initiative — and that can be you.

The Little Things

You don’t have to do anything extravagant; in fact, the little things are often the most powerful. You and your children can bake homemade sweets to welcome your new neighbors to town, or invite them over for dinner. It’s also important to make yourself available. By simply being outside more, walking over to say hi while you’re both doing yard work, or just waving hi, you’re showing that you’re open to getting to know each other more! If your neighbor asks for your help, do as much as you can.

Show Interest in Them

And perhaps the most important: remember that your job is not to turn each conversation into a deep heart-to-heart on the Bible and religious beliefs. Show a genuine interest in their children, their aging parents, their dream to go back to school, and make plans to see that new movie that you both can’t wait for. Value the ordinary parts of people’s lives without feeling like you’ve got to “get to the church stuff,” and you’ll find an entirely new depth.

Go Beyond Your Neighborhood

Being a good neighbor doesn’t end when you drive off your street. Dedicate time and energy to helping out in your community. That can include planning a garage sale and donating the proceeds to charity, volunteering at a local nonprofit, or helping a friend at church fundraise for their mission trip.

We’re called to follow in His footsteps, and what better way to do this than to be warm, inviting neighbors? As an Orlando private school, our community aims to help our students embrace a kind and generous spirit. Find out more about our amazing school here!

Kids Who Changed the World

Children around the globe have used their creativity and innovation to change lives for the better. Children often assume that they can’t make an impact on the world at their age, however, as an Orlando Catholic school, St. Charles Borromeo believes that children can make a powerful change. Help inspire your child to make a difference by sharing these stories of other children who have changed the world!

Ann Makosinski

This 16 year-old Canadian student discovered that her friend in the Philippines had no light to do her homework at night. She used innovation to create a powerful, alternative source of light. With only $26 and an original idea, she created a flashlight powered by body heat.  Ann Makosinski has her sights set high and aims to provide this source of light to people in developing countries for free.

Alex Deans

While helping a blind woman cross the street, Alex Deans realized the woman did not have a device to help her walk by herself in her own neighborhood. He saw an opportunity to create something that could give the blind more autonomy, and at 12 years-old he taught himself programming and created the iAid. The iAid combines GPS and a compass to offer valuable guidance to the blind.

Chester Greenwood

In 1873, Chester Greenwood combined beaver fur, wire, and cloth to create the first earmuff — an invention every northerner relies on to keep their ears from freezing in the winter. By the time he was 19 years-old, he had created his own earmuff manufacturing company.

Margaret E. Knight

Margaret E. Knight is responsible for designing our foldable, paper grocery bags. She designed a variety of other helpful gadgets in her youth, but most notably, at 12 years-old she created a metal part that kept workers safe when handling weaving looms.

A child’s unique perspective can be just what the world needs to solve problems. Encourage your child to think outside the box, and share these stories of children who have done the same! If you’re looking for an Orlando Catholic school that encourages children to see their full potential, visit us at St. Charles Borromeo. Our supportive community helps build a strong foundation for children to become responsible, diligent adults.

Questions to Ask at Back to School Night

It’s September, and school is fully back in session! Back to School Night is the perfect opportunity to get to know your child’s new teachers. As an Orlando Catholic school, St. Charles Borromeo takes the learning process very seriously, and we believe these questions can help you partner with your child’s teacher and get ready for a successful year.

What Does a Regular Day or Week Look Like?

Your child may not always do the best job of relaying what they’re learning at school. To make it easier to get involved, ask their teacher what a normal day may look like for your child, or if there are weekly rituals that are important to know about — for instance, perhaps each child is given a quiet reading time in the morning, or the classroom ends every Friday with a science experiment or hands-on learning project. This will help you start conversations with your child about specific things in their world!

How Do You Adapt Your Teaching Methods For Different Learning Styles?

Every child learns differently. Some pick up concepts at the drop of the hat, while others need time to process or practice; some are kinesthetic learners, while others are visual or auditory learners. This is a great opportunity to discover how your child’s teacher meets the needs of their varied classroom.

How Do Students Practice Critical Thinking Skills in Your Classroom?

It’s important that students learn how to utilize critical thinking! Ask your child’s teacher how they encourage students to ask thoughtful questions, pursue creative solutions, and puzzle through tricky problems.

How Can I Help My Child at Home?

School doesn’t end when your child leaves the classroom! They’ll be taking homework with them and will likely ask you for guidance. Your child’s teacher can offer valuable insight into their learning patterns or what they’re struggling with, and they’ll be thrilled to hear that you want to help your child reach their full potential.

How Do You Handle Students Who Struggle With Their Grades?

It’s important to know when your child starts to struggle so that they can be given the support they need to succeed. Make sure that you’re aware what intervention programs are available for students, and talk to your child as well; tell them to come to you when they start to feel overwhelmed. Together, you can conquer these struggles early in the semester!

The community at St. Charles Borromeo, an Orlando Catholic school, is excited to partner with you and your child for a year of success! We believe our students reach their best when they’re given an excellent education, a firm foundation in faith, and intentional parental support. You can learn more about what we offer on our about us page.

Back-to-School Study Tips

As the new school year begins, it’s important to remember how messy study habits may cause your child to struggle with their workload. As a College Park private school, St. Charles Borromeo thinks highly of our students and wants them to reach their full potential! Help your child conquer new academic challenges with these study tips.

Create a Study Space

To help make your child’s homework time as productive as possible, set up a disruption-free area where they can concentrate without distractions like technology, lots of people, or a ton of noise. Remember that each child is different, so what works for one may not work for another! When your child has a designated study spot, they won’t have to search for a quiet space every day. If your child likes to study with background music, add that to their study space to help make it feel comfortable and relaxed.

Give Tips for Careful Listening

Children absorb a lot of information in school, so help your child practice active listening to help them get the most out of class time. By helping your child learn how to identify main points and pay extra attention to their teacher’s gestures and tones, they’ll be able to retain what they learn and take note of important information.

Keep a Consistent Schedule

Between time with family, friends, and extracurricular activities, it can be difficult to find time for homework each day. Rather than squeezing in homework during free time, consistently allot time just for homework; this will guarantee that your child is never scrambling to find time to study.

Discuss the Difference Between Studying and Homework

Children commonly assume doing their homework is the same as studying, but it’s important that they understand the difference. While homework can help children reinforce information that was recently taught, studying involves deeper memorization and understanding. Explain to your child that when they study a little bit at a time every day, their homework will become easier, and they will be more successful on tests. Encourage your child to take notes while reading, summarize information in their own words, and make flashcards. These few extra steps will help students better retain what they’ve learned.

We’re excited to see how much our students will learn and grow during this upcoming school year! If you’re looking for a College Park private school, come visit us at St. Charles Borromeo. We believe our students should study hard, play hard, and pray hard in order to become responsible, respectful adults. You can learn more about our curriculum on our about us page.