As part of a series we’re calling Who We Are, we’re working to build and connect our community by interviewing the talented, dynamic parents and staff who make up the people of Villa di Maria. Today, we meet Cesar Garcia, father of Amaya, Elena, and Ben. He’s a serious workhorse at Villa di Maria, always willing to volunteer his time to help with the many community activities throughout the year. Thanks for sharing with us, Cesar!
Villa di Maria: Can you tell us a bit about your background and education?
Cesar Garcia: I grew up in NYC, attending NYC public schools from kindergarten through high school. Interestingly, in my senior year, my high school, which was not known for its academic achievements, ended the year ranked second in the city in dropout rate.
After high school, I enrolled at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (RPI) in Troy, NY, but never attended. A few weeks before the start of the fall semester, there was an unfortunate mix-up with the financial aid office. Long story short, I ended up enrolling at the City College of New York (where tuition was about a tenth of that at RPI). There, I earned a Bachelor of Engineering in Electrical Engineering.
For graduate school, I attended a then newly-developed interdisciplinary
program in electrical engineering, computer science, business administration, and public policy at Carnegie Mellon University, where I earned a Master of Science in Information Networking.
VdM: What do you do career-wise?
CG: I build IT infrastructure for a large investment bank in NYC. What our team does is comparable to what cloud vendors like Amazon, Google, or Microsoft do, except we do it in support of the firm’s various lines of business. For the last 4 years, I’ve enjoyed the privilege of working from home here in St. Louis. I’ve happily traded 2+ hours of daily commuting for occasional trips back to NYC.
VdM: Do you have any hobbies? How do you enjoy spending your spare time?
CG: Oldest hobby – eating ethnic food (how I wish I was a better cook!).
Newest hobby – kayaking. I just started last summer. Finishing up by watching the sun set on the lake is pretty cool. Well, it was a little nerve wracking the fist time, as it wasn’t exactly something I had planned.
Renewed hobby – biking. After years of not riding, I got my old road bike and mountain bike tuned up, just before the end of the riding season and managed to get some good miles in before the weather turned cold.
VdM: How were you introduced to Montessori?
CG: Amusingly enough, I have an old friend who was a Montessori “teacher” back in the nineties. At the time, she was also starting on a career in comedy. During an improv skit where the comics rotate through the development of a story where each sentence starts with a successive letter of the alphabet, she inadvertently skipped the letter “L.” I didn’t know what to make of Montessori at the time.
So I was really first introduced to Montessori when Anne and I were searching for a school for Amaya, and soon for Elena, to attend as part of our move to St. Louis. We weren’t specifically looking for Montessori, but we feel very fortunate to have stumbled into Villa.
VdM: Do you have any “Montessori Moments” you can share with us? (In other words, examples of when your children have done or said things outside the classroom that struck you as unique to the Montessori experience)?
CG: More of a story than a moment, but it reflects our Montessori and Villa experiences nicely…
Amaya had started pre-school in NYC, attending the better half of her first
school year there. Every morning at drop-off, her teacher would greet her with a “good morning” and a hand shake, but not once did Amaya reciprocate. Later, I would ask her about her day, and she would casually respond with something along the lines of “it was good, I didn’t talk to anyone today”. That more or less characterized her first year of school. Not once did she speak a word to any of her teachers or, as far as we know, to any other children in her class.
Contrast that with her very first day at Villa, where she opened up to Mrs.
Milos summarizing her life story and our current circumstances – about just having moved to St. Louis, having a little brother and sister at home, Dad still in NY trying to sell the house and IIRC us living with the grandparents during our transition.
VdM: What is your favorite thing about Montessori?
CG: Perhaps the multi-aged classrooms and their progressing relationship to their classroom over the three years in the same class, and how the cycle repeats as they move from primary to lower and upper elementary. For our kids, it’s a nice contrast from their situation at home where Ben is always the youngest, Elena the middle sibling, and Amaya the eldest.
Thank you, Cesar, for always being such a team player for our little community. We are so happy to have your family here at Villa di Maria!