Betting on Betances

Betting+on+Betances

Ms. Betances, at home in her classroom.

On October 20, 2012, during the annually held Journalism Day in FIU, Coral Gables’ very own Camile Betances was announced District 6 Journalism Teacher of the Year.  The CAF&DM leader, Mrs. Zuniga nominated her for the award because she believes that not only is Ms. Betances a team player, but a great teacher.

“She works really hard helping her students achieve success in their work. She’s always taking initiative in projects and has gotten over $10,000 in equipment funded for students to use,” Zuniga said.

Once nominated, other District 6 advisers from a variety of schools began to vote for her.

Ms. Betances began teaching Creative Writing to all students and English I to freshmen in the 2007-2008 school year. Over the years she has been a teacher for general, honors, gifted, and Pre-IB English 1 students.

“When they called my name I was happy, but completely overwhelmed. I am so grateful that I have been blessed to be at a school that is so supportive of its teachers and of the programs we work so hard to develop,” Betances said.

Although Ms. Betances was in shock, it was no surprise to others who surround her, especially her students.  “She works really hard and is amazing at her job, nothing is subpar about her. She allows us to make and learn from our mistakes, but at the same time she’s always there when we need her. You can count on her to get a job done and a job done well,” junior Paulina Picciano said.

While teaching Introduction to Creative Writing she began to take notice that students wanted to continue beyond the intro class. That is when Ms. Betances took it upon herself to begin working diligently with the administration to create more levels of Creative Writing. The advanced course began during the 2009-2010 school year and goes all the way from a level 1 to a level 5. Together with a handful of students (Madeline Cowen, Alexa Langen, and Sophia Aitken) she created a long term project for these advanced levels. Thus, Catharsis, the school’s Literary Magazine was born.

Catharsis has come a long way in a short amount of time. From the first award  ever being won, Silver from the Florida Scholastic Press Association, to winning All American (the highest category) this previous year, it is safe to say that this program has excelled tremendously.

“The biggest challenges in the beginning were computers and money. At first I only had one student computer, then for years it was three. Finally last year we grew to seven computers and it made a world of a difference! The magazine costs a lot of money to print and we have always sold it for less than it costs, so raising enough money is always a challenge. Also, it was hard to get people to “buy-in” to what Catharsis was in the beginning. Many people didn’t understand what a lit mag was or could be,” Betances said.

When alumni Madeline Cowen was asked what she thought about Catharsis‘ progress, she said, “When we started out, we quickly learned just how little we knew about the process of creating a magazine. We had to start a program from scratch, yet we created a magazine that has won multiple awards and continues to improve. If you ask Ms. Betances why it’s done so well, she’ll probably give the staff members most of the credit, and the feedback we’ve received from various organizations. But I would like to point out that throughout the entire process, her dedication to Catharsis and her belief in us, her students, never wavered. The amount of time and effort she invested into the program was truly inspiring and led Catharsis to success.”

As students began entering the advanced levels and Catharsis finally settled as a routine class project, Ms. Betances took on yet another project to help restructure the CAF&DM academy. This project is our very own, CavsConnect. During the summer Ms. Betances worked closely with Mario (Editor in Chief) and myself to plan the site and organize content so that it would be ready once the school year began. We would met at Panera Bread and UM’s campus to discuss the site and cover summer sports and other student activities.

“I took it on because I have experience in publishing online through websites and blogs and have used them with my students for years. Since I was already a journalism adviser for Catharsis and a freelance photographer, it was easy for me to combine these skills to advise CavsConnect. I have become passionate about CavsConnect and it is definitely taking up the majority of my time this year. It is a constant job!” Betances explained.

Through these publications relationships have been fostered with students.

“To be honest, I never imagined I would have the relationship that I do with my students. When you are studying to become a teacher, they explain about boundaries and the way you should act around your students, but being an adviser is very different from being a regular classroom teacher. I am often up late with my editors getting things done for the site. News sites need to be updated as close as daily as possible to be relevant, and so the communication between the editors and I is constant. It takes time to grow a program and I distinctly remember many of these same feelings when Catharsis first started,” Betances said when asked about how she felt creating relationships with her students.

All in all, Ms. Betances well deserved this title for numerous of reasons. She considers Gables her home and jumps at any opportunities that it offers her. As one of her students, I can honestly say that I am honored to have been taught by such an extraordinary teacher. There has never been a doubt in my mind that she is anything but amazing. She loves what she does, and her passion for teaching is easily portrayed in her work.

“Dr. Diaz and Mr. Costa have always believed in me when I told them my ideas. Ms. Munnerlyn was very helpful as well in developing the Creative Writing classes and organizing the curriculum. My fellow CAF&DM advisers (Ms. Zuniga, Ms. Nieves, and Ms. Munoz) are just awesome and I would not be as  successful of an adviser without their strength. I thank everyone for their support because they have helped to shape me into the teacher I am today,” Ms. Betances concluded.