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.

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.

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.

Be Thankful Regardless of Circumstances

As we continue to grow in our faith and follow in His footsteps, we should embrace a spirit of thankfulness. It’s easy to forget to be thankful for the things in our life that make us happy, but it’s much harder to be thankful when we’re going through stressful situations. St. Charles Borromeo, an Orlando Catholic school, teaches our community how to be thankful, even in the midst of trials.

Beyond The Present

Our worries and stress can sometimes feel overwhelming. Often, we can get too caught up in the moment to recognize that God is here alongside us, supporting us through it all. When you’re feeling worn down, remind yourself that you’re not alone, and ask close friends and family to help remind you as well. The more you remember to turn toward Him, the more thankfulness will become a habit.

Be Thankful For Others

God has placed other people in your life who are there to help support you, take care of you, and encourage you to push through hard times. Take time to be grateful for them. You can show this through prayer, through a phone call, or even through bringing someone their favorite dessert. Focus on the good that your loved ones have brought into your life, and make sure they know you appreciate them.

Beyond Social Media

How often do you see #blessed on an Instagram post? While there’s nothing wrong with sharing what you’re grateful for, make sure that your thankfulness doesn’t end when you put down your phone. Not every aspect of your life is going to feel perfect enough to share with the world, but we must embrace thankfulness even in those times.

Bless Others

Sometimes helping others can shift our perspective on our own situation. It takes our focus off of ourselves and teaches us empathy and compassion, while changing our attitude toward negative situations.

As an Orlando Catholic school, our community at St. Charles Borromeo believes in working hard, playing hard, and praying hard. And we remember to be thankful during every step of our day. If you want to learn more about how we balance our faith with education, you can check out our about us page.

Pray Now and Act Now

When a close friend is going through a rough time, our first response is often to tell them, “I’ll pray for you.” Sometimes we put off said prayer until later that night — or we might even forget about it entirely, although we truly did mean to pray for them! Upholding our promises to pray helps us love those around us like Jesus does.

First, let’s talk about our relationship with prayer. Instead of saying, “I’ll keep you in my prayers,” ask if it would be okay if you prayed with them right that moment. For many, this may feel awkward! But it’s important to remember that a good prayer isn’t about an eloquent speech. The key factor is that you are relying on Him to listen and bring change, and you are able to comfort and care for your friend.

After you’re done praying, ask if there is more you can do; there may be small ways you can continue to offer support. Remember that Jesus didn’t only pray for people who were struggling, but He offered His help. We can continue to become more like Him by joyfully and kindly taking care of those around us.

You may be surprised by how many ways you can help out a friend and how these small things can make an incredible impact. If he or she is sick or overwhelmed, bring them some food for dinner or offer to help tackle day-to-day tasks like cleaning or picking up their children from school. You can also bring comfort by simply being present. Suggest you start a Bible study together, call regularly to check how they’re doing, or offer to take their mind off of things with a fun day of hiking or relaxing at a coffee shop.

Combining acts of service with thoughtful, intentional prayer can go a long way in supporting our friends and family. With each step we take to help, we are able to be used by Him to bless others.

We embrace prayer and action within our community and encourage our students to follow in His footsteps. If you’re looking for a private school in Orlando that embraces community and prayer, consider visiting us at St. Charles Borromeo. We’d be excited for you to join our family of prayer next semester!

Graduation: The Best Memories Guide

It’s almost time for graduation! As an Orlando Catholic school, St. Charles Borromeo will miss our graduating classes, but we’re proud of our students’ accomplishments this year and excited about their bright futures. No matter their age, graduation is the perfect time to capture memories, so take a look at some of our favorite momentos below.

Preschoolers and Kindergarteners

This class is growing up fast! You can capture their youth by creating a simple DIY craft with their handprint. To make a salt dough ornament, combine one cup of salt with one cup of flour in a bowl, mix in ½ cup water, and knead the dough. Press it into a circle and put a little paint on your child’s hand. Then, press it into the dough. Remember to punch a hole into it to thread ribbon through before leaving it out to dry.

You can also make a keychain! Paint your child’s hand with a gloss-finish acrylic craft paint, then gently press their hand onto Shrinky Dink plastic. Once the paint dries completely, use a Sharpie to add their name to the opposite side. After that dries, cut out the handprint, punch a hole in the plastic, and bake it in the oven for 2-3 minutes until it’s flat. Afterward, use small pliers to loop a keyring into the hole. Now, you have a memory you can take with you anywhere!

Another option is to decorate a dish towel. Place a white dishcloth onto cardboard or newspaper, paint your child’s hand with fabric paint, and press their hand to the fabric. Let it dry for 24 hours, then heat set it by ironing the opposite side or by putting the fabric into the dryer for an hour. Make sure to leave it alone for another day or two before washing.

Now that you have a small decoration, you can also create a snapshot of their personality by having them write an “about me.” Think of it as a small letter to their future self, sharing their dream career, favorite food, favorite hobby, and more.

8th Graders

Want to capture memories and get excited about high school? Have a photo day! Get your child together with their best friends and take pictures with them donning their future high school colors. Then, plan a day for your child and their friends to scrapbook together with the photos you took, as well as any others they want to include.

This may also be a good time to revisit that “about me” to see how much has changed — or stayed the same! Ask them to write a new one to revisit when they graduate high school and suggest that they store it inside their scrapbook.

High School Seniors

High school is almost over and it’s time for another picture day! Gather your child and their friends, have them wear their university colors, and take pictures in their favorite spots on campus and around town. And of course, pull out those old “about me” letters or DIY handprint crafts as a reminder of how much they’ve grown. For a humorous momento, recreate their childhood photos, paying special attention to poses, clothing, and facial expressions!

We wish our graduating classes good luck in all their future endeavors — we can’t wait for you to come back and visit us to tell us all about them! And if your graduating little one is looking for a new Orlando Catholic school, visit us at St. Charles Borromeo. We mix faith and education to give children strong stepping stones for a successful future.

Mix It Up With Water Balloons

Winter is over and the Central Florida heat is about to be in full swing; the days are quickly coming where it’s too hot to do anything outside that doesn’t involve water. So what better way to cool off than with water balloons? Check out these creative ideas for how you and your children can play with water balloons this summer.

Water Balloon Race

Take a trip to your local dollar store and stock up on wooden spoons and small balloons. At home or the park, determine a starting line and a finishing line for your race. Fill the balloons with water, distribute a spoon to each contestant, and help each child carefully balance the water balloon on the spoon. The challenge is to see who can cross the finishing line first—without dropping their balloon.

If you want an extra art component, grab some paints and brushes. Each person racing can have fun decorating their own unique spoon to race with!

Balloon Toss

Instead of simply throwing balloons at each other, create a target. Get chalk, clear off a bit of space in your driveway, and draw a series of rings in varying sizes. Assign a point value to each ring, with the smallest ring being worth the most. Now, pick up those water balloons and let them fly! For extra difficulty, add in obstacles or rules like having to spin three times before throwing the water balloon. Have fun seeing who can collect the most points.

Ice Eggs

This one is perfect for those days that are too hot to step outside. Put a small toy inside a balloon, fill the balloon with water, tie it off, and then stick it in the freezer. Once it’s frozen, carefully cut away the balloon from the frozen water. Enjoy the beauty of your freshly-created ice egg fossil! Have a contest to who can melt it the fastest or slowest, or just let it cool you off.

Water Balloon Hunt

Fill up water balloons and hide them around your yard. Then, see how long it takes your kids to track them down… and how much longer it takes them to start throwing their newly found treasure.
We hope you and your family stay cool this summer! Drink lots of water, enjoy throwing some water balloons, and remember to visit us at St. Charles Borromeo. As a Catholic school in Orlando, we want our students to work hard, play hard, and pray hard—especially over the summer. And if you’re looking for a school that values both academics and spirituality, please consider visiting us. You can learn more about what we offer on our about us page.

Spend Earth Day at the Zoo

A trip to the zoo means more than a fun day with animals—it’s packed full of chances to learn about God’s world. Earth Day is a great opportunity to learn about our roles as caretakers of His creation, and what better place to do that than at your local zoo? Check out the reasons that you and your children should spend some quality time together at the zoo this upcoming Earth Day.

Why Learn About Zoo Animals?

God created everything on this Earth and as stewards, we must do our best to protect it. But seeing as we lose at least 10,000 species each year, it’s important for children to visit the zoo and develop a passion for animal and wildlife conservation. The zoo is a great place to learn about conservation projects, and it can also help them learn little ways to save the planet in their daily lives.

Before you plan your trip, take time to talk to your children about things they should pay attention to or ask questions about. While they might be excited about seeing their favorite animals in person, giving them focus points helps them understand the bigger picture.

Learn About Animal Families

Children can see the joys of the family unit He created within their own home, but are they aware that this family unit is also displayed in other animals? Children can see family values in some of the animals they may come across, such as with elephants. Talk to them about how these animals take care of their kids and ask them what they notice and relate to about these animal families.

Study Animal Habitats

Everyone needs certain conditions to live, and God designed animals to fit perfectly within their respective habitats. As you progress through the zoo, note how the habitat changes with each species. Children can begin to learn His design by seeing how certain environment can create an ideal living situation for each animal.

Remember to Stay Positive

Jumping straight to discussing extinction can be scary, especially for young or sensitive children. Instead, keep your questions and discussions focused on the positive; however, don’t discourage a developing passion if your child begins to ask deeper questions. Continue to focus on the beauty of nature and how your children play an important role in keeping it beautiful. They can begin to respect His creation by seeing the beauty of wild animals and their environment.

By combining understanding with respect, children can start taking steps to being a true steward, as He asks. St. Charles Borromeo, an Orlando private school, also cultivates an environment where children can learn to be respectful of the environment and those around them—a trait that will last them into their adult life. You can learn more about how we incorporate values into our education here.

Spend Time With Your Family This Easter Break

Easter break is a wonderful time to relax and celebrate the Resurrection of Christ. As a College Park private school, St. Charles Borromeo understands how important it is to make time for your family, especially around Easter! Take a look below at some of our favorite activities that you and your family can do together this break.

Family Game Night

You can never go wrong with classic favorites like Monopoly, Sorry!, and Trouble. You can even throw a little spin on a classic like UNO by turning it into Spicy UNO. If all you have are a deck of cards, you can start a small Spoons tournament! No matter what you choose to play, family game nights are a great opportunity to spur some friendly competition and create unforgettable memories.

Craft Party

Arts and crafts help exercise your child’s creativity and self-confidence. Try picking up a crafts kit at a local bookstore, or check online for messy DIY ideas like polka dot slime or rainbow bubbles. You could even throw in a little bit of science into your craft day with these homemade bookmarks! Final products can be used as household decorations or as homemade gifts.

Bring Books to Life

Whether or not your kids are bookworms, it’s easy to transform a family-friendly book into a captivating performance. Have the parents take turns playing narrator. Then assign your children roles, making sure to give them plenty of props, costumes, and time to get in character. As you read the book, have your children act out what their character is doing, and repeat or summarize the lines their character says. Encourage creativity, ad-libbing, and humor! This is a great way to make the Bible memorable and relatable, so make sure to use favorite Bible story as well.

Volunteer Together

Look into local organizations to see where you and your family can pitch in, such as food pantries, senior rehabilitation centers, or places that your church has partnered with in the past. Volunteering can help create stronger bonds between family members while helping your children practice empathy, gain self-confidence, and learn that they can make a difference in the world.

We hope that you have some fresh new ideas and that you enjoy spending time with your family this Easter break! And if you’re looking for a College Park private school that offers faith-based education, including the significance of Easter, come visit us at St. Charles Borromeo. You can learn more about our curriculum on our about us page.