Growing up in the Florida Keys in the early 80’s, I formed an appreciation and connection to nature. Sunny days were filled with diving and exploring the life that populated the aquatic world. I also developed an ability to observe and imagine. Growing up in nature was like examining another world; charting what I came across as I swam along shore lines, canals, beaches and reefs.
My father and grandfather were treasure divers; diving off the coast of the Keys for opportunities to strike it rich – they found gold on the wrecks of the Concepcion and the Atocha. I guess you could say I was attracted to history and the mystery of the past from a young age.
I grew up with big ideas and was always curious. I went through a phase of inventing things (or so I thought). Inspired to create my own battery recharger, because my remote-controlled boat and Laser Tag set were running out of juice, I took an old electrical cord from a lamp and spliced the wire in two. I theorized that a battery produced electricity and all it needed was for it to be replaced to be used again. Taking a 9 volt battery I hooked it up to the plug designed to fit it and attached each of those wires to the old lamp cord and plugged it into the wall. Fire shot out of the outlet and luckily I pulled my hand away in time from this electrical dragon. A blown circuit and power lost in about half of our Jacksonville apartment was the only damage caused – but my dad just didn’t see it that way. Not being discouraged, I then proceeded to make my own portable fan from the engine of one of my remote-controlled cars. That was much safer and more successful.
All of this at the age of nine, but my curiosity wouldn’t let me stop. In my middle school years, I developed a science fair experiment entitled “The Effect of Aerodynamics on Rockets”. This earned me a second place prize in my regional fair in Duval County, but also a plaque from NASA.
I then moved on to my high school days where I started out at Terry Parker High School and eventually transferred to Stanton College Preparatory School in Jacksonville. Then, in 1992, Hurricane Andrew hit and with most of our family living in south Florida, my father went down to help them rebuild. It turned into a steady line of work and we moved down in 1993 where I finished up school in Dade County at Miami Southridge.
Not sure what direction I was going to head in, I went to Miami Dade Community College and finished up with my AA degree. While at MDCC, I spent a month in Europe which totally renewed my interest in antiquity, taking a world history class and an introduction to archaeology shortly thereafter. When I was accepted into Florida State University, I decided to major in Art History, since I had a passion for art (considering creating my own comic book for a time) and history. I was deeply interested in what inspired artists to create what they did, and I also wanted to observe and learn to create my own work based on the principles of the masters. The famous Renaissance artists were my heroes – Michelangelo, Leonard da Vinci, Brunelleschi, Alberti. These were men who studied the ancient arts and understood how nature was the greatest artist creating beauty and harmony in all forms of life. This brought me to the ancient Greeks and Romans, and I was hooked.
I returned to Europe in 2000 where I excavated in Italy at Poggio Collo delle Civitelle near the small Umbrian town of San Venanzo. We broke ground on a site there that would eventually reveal the remnants of an Etruscan and Roman civilization virtually untouched for thousands of years. I excavated four years there, extending from my final year of study as an undergraduate at FSU and into my final years as a graduate student in the Classics program.
Changing fields from Art History to Classical Languages meant I narrowed my focus and found my niche. I wasn’t interested solely in material remains; although the interpretation of their use and function was interesting, I was more interested in trying to understand how the ancients thought and how their minds worked. This was only attainable through the study of their languages, which is why I chose to study Latin and ancient Greek. While in graduate school, I was driven to produce papers and present my ideas to my peers – which were met with positive reviews and lots of encouragement.
With regard to the ancient world, it wasn’t enough for me to just read what they said, felt or thought. I wanted to know what they knew. I didn’t want to rely on someone else’s interpretation, I wanted to have a direct dialogue. This is the focus of my small, but growing, corpus of work.
Today, I am still learning and searching – just like when I was young. Continuing to be propelled by my curiosity and a longing for knowing, I hope to inspire my students to do the same. I want my students to expand their horizons, to challenge their thinking and their concepts of what the world is. I want them to dream big and have the courage to challenge themselves and about what the world could be – this is my personal goal as a teacher. I want to teach them how to seek out their own answers to their questions and teach them to have the courage to ask those questions in the first place. In the end, the teacher and the student become peers – each learning from each other.