December Teacher of the Month
Holly Caffarel is still going strong after 35 years of teaching, and she said she has no plans to slow down. The 1st-grade math teacher is in her third year with University View Academy. She admitted coming to UVA was a search for “Something new, a challenge.” Mrs. Cafferal taught in the same school district, made the same commute, and experienced the same emotions familiarity can breed over 32 years. “This is a wonderful transition,” she gushed as she talked about coming to UVA. She is also teaching just one subject, and she said that allows her to focus and delve into math, her first love.
Mrs. Caffarel quickly overcame the obstacle of learning new technology in the online teaching world. She admitted the more complicated part was the learning curve of taking what worked in a brick-and-mortar classroom and shaping it to apply to students in the virtual world. “The most important thing is to get their attitude right about math,” she stated. Mrs. Caffarel explained life for her students at this age is play, and with math at the center of games, students see it as fun.
One exercise for her students is making homemade ice cream. Mixing the ingredients involves numbers and addition. “Had fun doing it and made a mess in the kitchen, but it gets the whole family involved,” Mrs. Caffarel laughed. Just as sweet as the homemade concoction is the realization students are learning through the experience. “When you see their eyes light up! Oh, I got it,” she gushed. It’s all part of her teaching philosophy. “Math is fun. It’s a challenge, and we go for it,” she stated.
One obstacle to education few saw coming this year was Hurricane Ida in August. It had a significant impact on UVA students in its path because the storm destroyed the electrical grid and interrupted internet service, essentially stopping school. Mrs. Caffarel admits teaching the kids impacted is one of the most significant challenges of her long career. Some students are still affected three months later. At first, students with no consistent utilities had to rely on doing exercises in their workbooks. As internet service was restored, they resumed class by working in small groups to get caught up. UVA also sent individual internet hotspots to students so they could continue lessons. Hurricane Ida was much more disruptive than COVID-19. The storm and the pandemic may be benchmarks in Mrs. Caffarel’s career as a teacher, but she won’t allow either of them to stop her. “I plan to do this as long as I can. I’m not ready for that to end,” she stated.