Our volunteer staff at the Homestead is represented by people with experience in many different professions: the medical field, the insurance industry, and the service industry, just to name a few. The largest group represented, however, has experience in the field of education.
This month, we turn the spotlight on Carmen Fierro, one of our museum teachers and docents. Carmen retired from teaching a few years ago after a wonderful career in the Azusa Unified School District. Aside from educating hundreds of students, Carmen also served as a master teacher, lending her support and guidance to student teachers in their professional training. Now that she is retired, she and her husband, Ernie, enjoy travelling and spending time with family. But, in true teacher fashion, Carmen never completely retired. In addition to volunteering at the elementary school where she taught for many years, she gives tours at the Homestead.
Tell us about your first visit to the Homestead and how that influenced your decision to volunteer at the museum.
My first visit to the Homestead had to be back in the ‘80s, probably shortly after it opened. I really don’t remember anything beyond being on the front porch of the Workman House. That was enough to influence my second visit about 30 years later when I was getting close to retiring and planning things to occupy my new free time. My husband and I attended the Victorian Fair in 2012 to see if the Homestead was a place where I could volunteer. We talked to a couple of the docents who told us what a wonderful place it was. It seemed like a place where I could spend some time being useful in an environment that fit my love of history—and it is!
One of the first programs you were eager to learn after completing Docent Training was A Journey Through Time, our fourth-grade California history program. Why?
Since an early age, I’ve enjoyed learning about history and the people who lived in the past. I also spent 39 years teaching elementary school, where US and California history were part of the curriculum. The Journey Through Time program allows me to blend those two interests in a way where it’s not about the test, but about the experience. I love working with children in this environment!
You love when kids ask you questions! What are a few of your favorites?
I love when kids ask questions to make connections between their own experiences and the past. For me the most exciting part of a Journey Through Time is the radio play. In about 50 minutes the kids learn about radio plays as a form of entertainment, experience anxiety about having to perform, work together to make it happen, and are proud of their accomplishment. They are always excited to listen to their performance back at school. Two questions/comments I often get are about the bear rug (Is it alive?!) and Mr. Temple’s cigarettes in the living room. They’re often horrified that he was a smoker.
What are some things that adults should keep in mind when working with kids?
My first goal is to keep every child engaged in what we’re doing. I try not to talk too long without expecting some sort of response from the kids. I try to make a positive acknowledgement of each child’s answer to a question, whether it’s right or wrong. One of the best aspects of the Journey Through Time program is that there’s something for every type of learning style: visual, auditory and kinesthetic.
Thanks to Operations Assistant, Steven Dugan, for this submission. He and Carmen have a lot in common, especially the shared belief that the only two seasons worth caring about are baseball season and winter!