Q&A with Faculty Member Carlos Villafane, PhD

Suzanne Dewey and Carlos Villafane, PhD
We often “catch up” with long-term faculty members in our magazine, Holderness School Today, but thought spending some time with our new faculty would also be enjoyable for our readers. Carlos Villafane, PhD joined the faculty in September 2018. He and his wife, Jennifer, live in Webster. Carlos teaches both Spanish and History and is currently coaching Boys JV Basketball. He has just had an article published in an academic journal so we also salute his good efforts!
1.)  You and Jennifer have rapidly become involved in many areas of the Holderness community in your first year. What two or three experiences stand out for you?

There have been so many that it is difficult to narrow it down to two or three, but if I had to choose it would be Mountain Day, Poetry Out Loud Semi-Finals in the chapel, and the first few days of classes just meeting everyone and experiencing at first glance how Holderness suddenly came to life. Being new to the area, I really appreciated the opportunity to experience the outdoors with the whole school during Mountain Day. The Poetry Out Loud competition has allowed me to see another side of some of my students and I love how that competition gives them a voice outside the classroom through powerful poems.

2.) You teach in two departments -- possibly different grade levels. Is that hard to do or does it have some advantages?

It is very enjoyable to teach in two departments. As you say, not only do I teach in two different departments, but also very different grade levels. Right now my history class is only seniors, whereas my Spanish 1 class is mostly 9th graders, so I think it is a good balance. Sometimes it feels unreal going from teaching basic greetings in Spanish to ninth-graders to talking about the Iranian Revolution of 1979 to seniors in a matter of minutes. But I find that it is good to have this variety each day. I have started speaking Spanish in my history class a few times!

3.) What have you learned from the kids so far this year?

What I have learned most from the kids this year is their frankness and honesty (two qualities I admire), especially in class. They are not afraid to let you know if they enjoyed or disliked a particular activity or exercise, if they find class boring or really fun, and if they find assessments too hard! I have also learned that they are very approachable and truly enjoy having conversations with me outside of class. I feel I have a very good rapport with all of my students.

4.) How have you and Jennifer liked being dorm advisors? Any surprises?

I have really enjoyed being one of the dorm advisors in Webster. I find that it is a very good way of getting to know students day and night, especially since, in my case, I do not teach a single one of my dorm kids, so I have never encountered them in an academic environment! The main surprise has to be how well I get along them. Both Jennifer and I really enjoy living in the middle of campus with this group of kids.

5.) Your Boys’ JV Basketball team has experienced back to back wins -- is there a secret to your coaching?

I do not think there is a secret to my coaching. I believe it is about finding the right balance: having fun, with competitiveness, and a bit of luck every now and then. The boys have done fantastically well, especially since we suffered a very heavy defeat at our first game. Everyone is working hard. Before each game I always tell them that if we win they will become Holderness heroes!

Carlos coaching during a JV2 Basketball game

6.) What has become one of your favorite things about the Holderness community?

My favorite thing about Holderness is the bonds you form with everyone, from the students to the employees. It is like a university campus but better because it is smaller and everyone knows each other! My other favorite thing is greeting students around campus - they each have their unique greetings which I often find reflect their different and unique personalities (e.g. some give a fist bump, while others say an enthusiastic “hola, D. V!”, etc).

7.) What lessons have you learned this year?

To never expect a dull moment here in Holderness! One moment you can be having lunch with your colleagues and the next you could be taking an advisee downtown to sharpen their skates. Another lesson would be the multifaceted learning process that happens here where one learns from the students as much as they learn from us faculty.

8.) Have you had time to read any books? If so, what would you recommend and why?

I have not had the time to read too many books. However, being a bookworm, I always make sure I have at least one book to read. So far this year, I have read a Nordic Noir novel by Jo Nesbø called The Snowman, The Handmaid’s Tale (although required for my history course, I have always wanted to read it), and I always try to find time to read my favorite book Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne. I try to read it at least once a year!

9.) You’ve just published an article, titled “Go Tell the Lacedaemonians? Sparta’s Reliance on the Perioikoi During Times of Conflict.” Please tell us about this article and your research and writing process.

This article is very special to me because it is the result of the very first conference paper I ever presented. I was very excited when the organizers of the conference told me that they wanted to publish my paper and include it as part of the main volume called Conflict in the Peloponnese: Social, Military and Intellectual. Seeing it published now after so many years (due to many delays and changes in editors, it took more than five years to come out) makes me feel proud of all the years I spent researching a topic that is very important to me. The article is basically a summary of my doctoral research, which focuses on an obscure group of people who lived in the surrounding towns of ancient Sparta and how they contributed to the greatness and everlasting fame of the Spartans.

More about Carlos Villafane, PhD

Dr. Carlos Villafane earned his PhD in Classics and Ancient History and his Master’s in Ancient History at the University of Liverpool in the United Kingdom. He received his Bachelor’s degree in European History from the University of Puerto Rico where he graduated magna cum laude.  He served as a teaching assistant, a classics teacher, and a residential advisor while at the University of Liverpool. He was most recently in Illinois at Monmouth College where his wife, Jennifer Martinez, PhD, was a lecturer and looks forward to exploring the terrain in New England.

Carlos and Jennifer met during "Noche de San Juan" (or Saint John's Eve), which is a traditional celebration going back centuries. At midnight, people go to the beach and fall backwards into the water several times. It’s supposed to give you good luck for the year. Carlos says, “it definitely worked for us!”

Carlos might also tell you that the best thing about studying and working abroad was living in different cultures. Having studied history, and being a language enthusiast, he loved meeting people from different backgrounds and learning about history in all the places he has lived. Carlos comes from a sports family - his grandfather was a professional shot putter and his brother was a professional basketball player for 18 years, having placed in NCAA Division I, Puerto Rico's professional Basketball league, and the Puerto Rico National Team. While not a professional athlete, Carlos is a huge supporter of Liverpool FC (the best soccer team in England) and likes to watch their games on weekends. He is also an amateur genealogist and has spent years building his family tree.

A native Spanish speaker, Carlos is fluent in English and has advanced knowledge of Greek and Latin; he can also communicate in French, Italian, and German. He grew up in Puerto Rico’s capital, San Juan, where he lived by the ocean most of his life. He likes to read, watch movies, enjoy the local wildlife, and walk nature trails.  He believes he learns from his students as they learn from him and is excited about preparing students for college. Carlos is well-published and has conducted considerable research and looks to helping students find their own passions. At Holderness, Carlos teaches Spanish and History and is the assistant coach for the cross country running team and coaches Boys’ JV Basketball. Carlos and Jennifer live in Lower Webster. No pets yet but being animal lovers, that is likely to change.

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Holderness School
33 Chapel Lane, Holderness, NH 03245
mail P.O Box 1879 Plymouth, NH 03264-1879
phone (603) 536-1257