Cavalier Teaching Academy Returns to Teach the Next Generation of Educators


Gaby Blanco

Smiling side by side, Ms. Santamaria (left) and Ms. Passwaters (right) prepare to take on the new academy as a team.

After having to temporarily shut down due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Cavalier Teaching Academy is officially reopening its doors to the students at Coral Gables Senior High. Led by Mrs. Santamaria and Mrs. Passwaters, the program is designed to inspire students to become the next generation of educators, shaping the youth.

During the 2017-2018 school year, Mrs. Santamaria and Ms. Torres founded the program, which is now a part of the Design Education and Hospitality Academy. Partnering with Miami-Dade College, the program encourages students who are interested in the teaching profession to pursue their passion by providing classes and learning opportunities, guiding them along their path to become future teachers.

The program is divided into four different levels, with students progressing throughout each school year. At the beginning, students are introduced to the world of teaching, being taught basic skills such as planning and learning about the development of students in a classroom. Once students understand the basics, they are given hands-on training where they create their own lesson plans for their mock-class.

When I saw what [Ms. Torres] would do in that class, I did not know that it was possible to make such close connections with students in those classes… I wanted to do the same. I want students who really want to become teachers to be proud and comfortable in saying ‘I want to be a teacher’,

— Mrs. Passwaters

Through the Cavalier Teaching Academy’s collaboration with MDC’s School of Education, students in the program can earn college credits while determining if being an educator is part of their future. In higher levels, students are given the opportunity to shadow teachers during their classroom instruction and experience the day-to-day life of a teacher. They can also complete a portfolio during their senior year to receive college credits from MDC.

“I graduated here in Gables and have been teaching here for 16 years now, so my hope is that we can help create new teachers here on campus and get them to come back to teach. We have so many teachers who were alumni of the school, and I think it is a great experience and a unique thing that makes our school even better,”  Mrs. Santamaria said.

With the revival of the academy, founder Mrs. Santamaria and new lead teacher Mrs. Passwaters are collaborating closely to establish goals for their first year back. Planning to work on the organization of the program and making sure to set a clear precedent for the separation between levels as time passes, the teachers are striving to involve more students around the school. Additionally, they hope to plan more events and activities with their students, bringing some back some traditions from previous years as well as creating new ones.

“[We] would like to also put some focus on the actual program as maybe like an Academy in itself, since it’s still a part of DEH. I have been very ‘in-depth; with [Gables] and its events and activities ever since I started as a freshman here and even now as a teacher, so we’d like to sort of make this program its own academy so our students can feel that same sort of spirit,” Mrs. Passwaters said.

With a fresh start in the 2022-23 school year, the Cavalier Teacher Academy is working to prepare for the arrival of the next generation of student educators. With the ability to reach out to an audience of students that are not often addressed, the program is developing to hopefully become its own academy at Gables.