Profesora Sheila Charbonier consistently points out the Cuban flag and flyers in her room and incorporates them into her lectures almost daily. Hearing about island life or the struggles with economic challenges in Cuba is something to expect everytime you walk into Profesora Charbonier’s classroom. Her Cuban origin has a great impact on her teaching especially because, “we border Mexico, so a lot of Arizona influence is from Mexico. I like to tell students things like ‘in other parts this is different’ because Cuba, in particular is very different from Mexico,” Charbonier said.

Profesora Charbonier, a Spanish teacher at NDP, was born in Cuba and lived there until she was eight. “It was very poor and for a Christmas gift we would always get a bag of candy and that was all. It was the only thing my mom could do so that we would not lose that magic,” Charbonier said.

A childhood photo of Sheila Charbonier in Cuba on her first birthday. Staff Photo/Sheila Charbonier

Charbonier said that everything was pretty run down and the economy wasn’t good. Every few years, Cuba had a ‘lottery’ and “my grandma applied all of her children for the lottery, which if won would be a ticket to move out of Cuba and into the U.S. My mother won this lottery and we had to go through a bunch of steps before we could move to the states,” Charbonier said. 

When Charbonier moved, her mom and siblings settled in Arizona. As a kid she had always wanted to be a doctor, but as she grew older, she hated blood and decided to go down another path. She went to ASU and got her bachelors of secondary education and emphasis on Spanish because she loves her culture and wanted to spread that to other people.

  “I started going to schools and I fell in love with being inside a classroom. Your whole world changes when you have to teach, so nothing else matters when you walk through those doors,” Charbonier said. Charbonier’s passion for teaching adds to her teaching environment because in addition to her knowledge, she’s putting it in a way people want to learn.

Charbonier was added to the NDP Spanish department in 2018. “Charbonier is very nice, fun, and engaging. I like her; she just has an incredible personality,” said Senorita Daniela Rice, another Spanish teacher at NDP. Even though Charbonier has such a small build, her bubbly and culturally diverse personality is so pertinent and discernable to anyone she talks to. 

“Profesora Charbonier is able to laugh with the class but she knows how to get stuff done and can still keep us on track,” said Sophia Rowan, a NDP sophomore in Charbonier’s class. “I really believe that I’m learning a lot this year in Spanish and I’m finally understanding some of it.”

Both Rice and Rowan agree that her Cuban heritage is advantageous to her teaching. “I think it helps her a lot with understanding the Spanish culture. It’s also useful to be able to express that in the classroom because she can bring it into all aspects of her class,” Rice said. “Her Cuban origin is helpful because she understands the language and it gives a cultural background for the rest of the class,” Rowan added.