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The Student News Site of Jewish Leadership Academy

The Inkwell

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Teacher Spotlight

Teacher+Spotlight

Ms. Melissa Sarmiento is well-known around the school as a great history teacher at JLA, but there’s more to her than meets the eye. She’s actually a graduate of two Ivy League schools, she’s lived in the foreign lands of Japan and Germany and she has quite the story to tell.

 

Where did you grow up and what was your high school experience like?

I grew up in Colombia and my family emigrated to Miami when I was ten. I finished high school in Miami before moving out of state for college.

 

How was your time in Germany? What did you do there and did you enjoy it?

I was able to go to Germany at the end of my junior year through Cornell’s study abroad program. I can’t say that I loved it there, though. I had to take a full semester of classes in German and it was really difficult. However, living there showed me how much I loved traveling and exploring, so when I got back, right at the beginning of my senior year, I knew that, while I did not want to go back to Germany, I did want to live abroad. I applied to jobs all over the world: Austria, Spain, Chile, South Korea, Norway, and I am sure many other places. Ultimately, I had no official plans of moving to Japan, but it was the program that accepted me. 

 

What did you do in Japan? What did you think of it? How is the academic culture there different from the U.S.?

I was in Tokyo for four years and I taught middle and high school English as a foreign language while there. I also got to travel throughout all of Asia and it was amazing!. My class sizes in Japan ranged from 30-50 students, so it’s definitely different from the 15 students at JLA. The school day in Japan is really long, and students also have classes on Saturday. The schedule was definitely an adjustment, but I loved working there. I had the opportunity to participate in all school traditions, including Bunkasai, which is a school festival that students put together for the community. It was a blast!

 

What has been your favorite part about being a teacher?

My favorite part of being a teacher is that I get to build relationships with my students, and I get to know them and support them throughout their academic careers. It means a lot to me when former students reach out to say hello. It’s also amazing when current students take that first step to say hi during breaks or after school. So, if you’re reading this, come say hello! Really–I love hearing from y’all. 

 

Why did you choose to come to JLA? What’s your perspective on this exciting and upcoming school?

Did I choose JLA or did JLA choose me? JLA came at a critical juncture in my life. I was looking for a change, but did not quite know what I wanted my next step to look like. When Ms. Alexander and Mr. Shapiro first reached out to me, I didn’t have plans of moving back to Miami after over a decade of being away from the city. Yet here I am! I was drawn to the school by its promise of excellence, commitment to service, and conscious efforts to cultivate kindness and empathy in its community. 

Every day, I am grateful that I get to be part of this experience. 

 

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About the Contributor
Andre M. Alperowitch, 9th grade, is a founding member of The Inkwell. His favorite topics to write about are sports and entertainment. He is also an avid artist who produces comics for the paper, and his favorite food is brigadeiro. Andre is also a passionate fan of Sao Paulo FC.

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  • M

    Morah VeredNov 1, 2023 at 6:17 pm

    Beautiful article! Great questions! Delight to read and learn about you dear Ms. Melissa Sarmiento:))

    Reply
    • M

      Ms. Jackeline MelendezNov 4, 2023 at 6:57 pm

      I loved reading this interview and learning about you, dear Melissa. I am very grateful to have you as my colleague!

      Reply