Ms. Maria Blandon, the AP Environmental Science teacher at Ferguson, has returned after having taught abroad for two years. She taught Chemistry and Anatomy at the American Nicaraguan School (ANS) located in Managua, Nicaragua, before leaving due to political turmoil. She attended ANS as a high school student until her junior year before transferring to South Miami Senior High, where she eventually taught.
She described how foreign it felt to have her former teachers become her colleagues. For instance, one of her former teachers, Dr. Alonso, became her colleague at Ferguson where he taught Chemistry before retiring. “He would kill me if he heard I called him a lot older, but…he is older,” Blandon said.
She attended the University of Texas majoring in Pharmacy, until later transferring to FIU to be closer to her family. When Blandon attended FIU, she changed her major to medical technology. It was very different from how the program runs now; there were less than 100 students in her major and normally you were familiar to everyone within your major. She has a degree in medical technology and worked at South Miami Hospital’s lab before her beginning her teaching career.
Ms. Blandon explained how individualistic working in a lab was which wasn’t a great fit. When she began her first teaching job at Hammocks Middle School, the rest was history. Blandon is interested in testing out a new teaching method called “flipped classroom”, which reverses the traditional classroom environment, meaning students watch instructional videos at home and work on projects in class.
When talking about her life outside the classroom, she spends her leisure time doing yoga, traveling, and visiting Fairchild Botanical Garden. Her love of Fairchild runs deep, she attends their annual chocolate festival and even encourages her students to visit.
“One of my favorite places in South Florida is Fairchild Botanical, a few of my students throughout the years have fallen in love with it,” Blandon said.
She goes on an annual yoga retreat and later this year she will be doing yoga at Machu Picchu. Some of her favorite trips have been to Prague and Tunisia. Blandon told an unusual story of her last trip to Paris when she visited the Louvre with her significant other, on the plane ride, she was warned about pick-pocketers and a burly, rugged man tripped in front of them and a few moments later tapped her boyfriend on the shoulder and asked if a gold ring on the floor was his.
The ring was not his, but he said yes anyway and the man then proceeded asked for a reward for having found the ring and Blandon was thinking “this man is going to rob us”. She reluctantly pulled out her wallet and paid the man a 20-dollar bill, to which he responded angrily demanding for more. The security pulled him away before the situation escalated, and when they returned to Miami, they pawned the ring only to find it was fake.
When asked about her bucket list, she mentioned her trip to Machu Picchu but more noticeably elaborated on how she and her children are happy, and that is what’s important to her. Blandon has two children in college, a senior at Williams College in Massachusetts and a sophomore at Brown University.
Her advice to any Ferguson students is to enjoy your high school years, make sure to always do the right thing, and avoid trouble as “it will follow you for the rest of your life.” A surefire way to impress Ms. Blandon in class is to be kind; her most memorable students as she puts it “are not necessarily the ones who always get a perfect score, but the ones who are always kind to everyone”. She expects this of all her students; her goal is to help her students understand the world around them, and in turn be kinder to others and nature.
She has worked at Ferguson for longer than she has at any other school. When asked why she stayed for so long, she paused and thought deeply.
“I love my department, the principal is great, and even though it is such a huge campus, you make your own little world wherever you go,” Blandon said, “My world is here, the 3rd floor, and the students here overall are good kids and hard workers. If I had the choice to go back to Nicaragua or stay here, it would be a very hard decision.”
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