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An Instant Classic | Dr. Carlos Villafane

Greg Kwasnik
A big part of what makes Holderness School so special are the teachers. This summer, we’re taking the time to get to know just a few of the amazing educators who call Holderness home.
How do you teach high school students about Ancient Greece through Zoom? Make it fun.
That’s just what Dr. Carlos Villafane did last spring when the COVID-19 pandemic moved his Ancient Greece class entirely online. So how did he make it fun? For part of the final exam, Carlos asked his students to dress up as figures from ancient Greece, from Plato to Socrates. Then, through Zoom, students tried to guess their classmates’ identities with the help of various historical hints.  “I was Thucidydes,” Carlos says, gushing about the ancient Athenian historian. “It was great. I got to wear my ancient Greek helmet.”
Here, Carlos tells us about his love for the ocean, why he likes being a dorm parent, and how you’re likely to see him strike up a conversation with his students – in Spanish – along the campus paths.
You teach Spanish and History here at Holderness, but you’re also a Classics scholar. Tell us about that.
Yes. My background is in classics. I have an MA in Ancient History and a Ph.D in Classics & Ancient History. So I have a big classics background.
What sparked your interest in the ancient world?
I think ever since high school I started really enjoying history, and I just started learning by myself about Greece and Rome. And then in college back home in Puerto Rico, I did my BA in European History so I took a lot of European history classes – Greek, Latin languages, and just anything that had to do with ancient history. That really piqued my interest in the classics.
What brought you to Holderness School?
I grew up in Puerto Rico, and spent all of my youth there. I did my BA in European History and unfortunately because Puerto Rico really doesn’t have degrees in Classics, I had to move and me and my wife [Dr. Jennifer Martinez, who is a Senior Thesis and History professor at Holderness and an accomplished Classics scholar in her own right] went to the U.K. where they had a really good Classics program in Liverpool, so we ended up doing our MAs and PhDs at the University of Liverpool. From there on it’s been great. We’ve been to a lot of places, from Puerto Rico to the U.K. and to the U.S. We try to go back to Puerto Rico every once in a while.
What do you like about teaching at Holderness?
One of the things I like about Holderness is it reminds me of a small college. It’s even better in the sense that you get to know the students really well. For example, if I’m teaching Spanish, I can speak Spanish with my students along the path. They greet me in Spanish and we have a little conversation. I can see how they’re progressing just by walking on the paths and seeing them, not just in the classroom
You’re a dorm parent, too. What’s that like?
It’s great being in a dorm, because you get to know other kids that you perhaps don’t have in your classroom. For example, last year I was new and I had 20 kids in my dorm and taught none of them. So I got to know them strictly in the dorm, which is great. This year I taught a few that lived in the dorm, but it was great. You see the kids in a different setting, different environment, and not just the classroom.
How do you like living in New Hampshire?
I love New Hampshire. I think it’s my favorite part of the U.S. I grew up in Puerto Rico and I lived for the first 16 years of my life two steps from the ocean, and the ocean is a big part of my life. I’ve always lived near the ocean and I’m glad to say that here in New Hampshire, while obviously I’m not as close to the ocean as I was in Puerto Rico, it’s really close. The lakes, the water, you can go anywhere. We love the outdoors, the environment, the mountains. It’s great.
When you’re not teaching, what do you do for fun?
This past summer we went whale watching which was really cool. We love to go hiking or go to the lake. We want to get into kayaking now. Even bird watching, we love that. Just anything that has to do with the outdoors is great in New Hampshire.


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