Thora (Graham) Cardenas '01
“There had to be a better way of learning…”
Ever since I can remember I have wanted to work with children in some way. As a caseworker at Raphael House, a family homeless shelter in San Francisco, CA, I was responsible for placing children in temporary schooling and helping them with their homework. I was surprised to see the work they brought from school — sometimes two hours of worksheets for a first grader. There had to be a better way of learning — and teaching, I thought. I went back to school and got my master’s degree in education with the idea of working toward a solution to this problem.
As a graduate of High Mowing I was drawn back to the community for reasons both professional and personal. As teacher, there is the opportunity here to teach creatively and responsively. I grew up in the Abbot Hill community and so returning when I had children of my own felt natural. It’s a good place to begin the work on which I want to focus. As a math teacher I strive to help my students feel comfortable with, and even — gasp! — enjoy working with numbers. Many 9th graders arrive with a fear or dislike of math. My goal is to help that start to change.
As both a mom of two preschoolers and a teacher my life is very full and I like it that way. My strategy of keeping on top of it all is to prioritize and then focus fully on whatever is the top priority of the moment. That way I can enjoy the moment by still keep track of everything I need to be doing.
I would say I have a strong tendency to turn the empirical, problem solving aspect of myself toward fun and creativity. When I was young, this took the form of circus arts. After a gap year, I attended UNH for a year before leaving to pursue a career in the circus. While training and performing, I continued to work on my degree, earning a bachelor’s degree in Community and Human Services. It was during an internship at The Sophia Project — a daycare for families at risk of homelessness in Oakland CA, and my work at Raphael House when I felt an even stronger calling to innovate a better approach to teaching and learning. I earned my master’s degree in education from Antioch New England as well as Waldorf teacher certification. I worked as a Class teacher at a Waldorf-inspired charter school in Portland Oregon before returning to become a teacher at High Mowing.
Empire State College - B.S.
Antioch University - M.Ed.