As part of our ongoing series Meet Our GDS Faculty and Staff, we are excited to present: Meet Erika Carlson!
Read the Q&A below to learn more about Erika.
Primary Role: Middle School History Teacher and 7th/8th grade Community Engagement and Experiential Learning (CEEL) Coordinator
Years at GDS: 12 years down and two months into year 13
What do you love about GDS?
I love that GDS is a place where I can create and re-create my curriculum. It is wonderful and fulfilling to be surrounded by so many other colleagues who are interested in finding the best ways to teach. I also love that I can decorate my classroom with a variety of pride flags.
Why do you do your job?
I remember what it was like being in middle school and how badly I needed adults to take me seriously when I was figuring out who I was and the things I wanted to do for the world. I treasured the adults who were there to listen and help me figure things out. Teaching helps me be that person for the young people I work with. I think there's nothing more important than making sure kids are seen and heard.
A favorite part of your job?
My absolute favorite is my census lesson on cats and dogs, but I can't talk about that one much because it ruins the learning activity. My second favorite is probably the lesson on hijab and dress codes for women in Iran because it always makes students think about their own perceptions and biases.
Your work style in three words?
Curious. Interdisciplinary. Civic-minded.
Other GDS activities or roles that community members may not know about?
I worked in GDS 360 for a while back, taught Latin at one point, taught 6th grade English at another point, and have been a Gender and Sexuality Alliance facilitator and Middle School Community Production director.
A top hope/wish for your students and/or colleagues?
I hope GDS (students and teachers alike) makes it a collective goal to learn more about and take action around issues of neurodivergence and disability in the coming years.
Reading and writing for a Young Adult (YA) audience; the arts more generally; teaching myself other languages; reading tarot cards; and collecting dolls and accessories for my truly absurd American Girl collection.
Tell us about a few favorites…
Favorite book: Darius the Great is Not Okay by Adib Khorram
Favorite song: “The Rainbow Connection” (the one by the Muppets)
Favorite Netflix show: Young Royals
Favorite place to get pastries in DC: Mikko on R Street
Something you made, created, or accomplished you can proudly share?
I'm in my second semester at Vermont College of the Fine Arts.
Here is a sample of a YA novel that Erika is working on in verse.
Tell us about your home life.
I live with my best friend Sarah, multiple chickens, too many dolls, and likely a few ghosts.
One thing about yourself your students/colleagues/others probably don't know?
I was at one point pretty good at navigating the kitchen in the Finnish Embassy.
One thing on your life "bucket list" you've already accomplished?
Meeting childhood favorite author, Susan Cooper.
One thing on your life “bucket list” you have yet to accomplish?
Publishing my first YA novel.
With a tip from Erika, we reached out to hear what a colleague had to say...
MS science department chair Jon Vanegas said: “Erika is an incredibly well-informed teacher, colleague, and friend. This is evidenced by her dedication to social justice and equity in and out of school. I can spend hours talking to Erika about disability rights, intersectionality, government corruption, or the last YA novel we read. I am incredibly lucky to be on the same team as someone who is unapologetically true to themselves!”
MS history department chair Kate Maloney said: “When planning with others, Erika always, unfailingly centers on students, their perspectives, and their role in the world. She shares her authentical self with everyone, and lives the mission of GDS in all that she does. Erika enjoys nurturing students to become lifelong change agents through her lessons and by her example. She is super involved and talented in various areas outside of her work from activism to artistic pursuits—but you'll never hear her brag about herself! Always humble. Finally, Erika is a lover of YA lit and anyone (adult or student) who needs a recommendation—she's the one to head to!