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Teacher Spotlight: Dominic Carrillo

Introduce yourself in one sentence, please

I am a teacher, father, husband, writer, reader, and amateur musician who loves to travel and experience new things, people, and places.

How long have you been at AAS?

10 years.

Share something we do not expect to hear from you?

When I was an adjunct history professor at Grossmont College, I also was a bus boy (cleaning tables) at a breakfast restaurant that my friend managed. It was fascinating to see the vast difference in the way that people treated me in each role within a 24 hour span– utmost respect as a professor, and complete disrespect (in the form of ignoring my words, avoiding eye contact, and obvious condescension) when I was wiping off their tables. Occasionally people were polite and acknowledged my existence as a busser, but not many.

What do you love most about your job?

With History, I love sharing stories within a topic or ones that connect to history in a way that engages student interest. I like storytelling– but doing so with multiple aims in mind. There has to be content, meaning, and purpose. I like sharing stories about history that students had not known or misunderstood previously. I love when they connect the dots, synthesize info and have “a-ha” moments which reveal they are thinking about something differently or with a new lens. One of my favorite teachers was my 8th grade history teacher, Dr Brian Bennett. He was a great storyteller, engaging instructor, role model, and inspiration. I try my best to emulate him and when I deliver lessons in my class that get close to his example– that’s what I love most about my job.

What would you be if you weren’t a teacher?

I would be a surfing instructor by day (beginner/intermediate because I’m not that good of a surfer myself) and a drummer in a live band at night. The surfing would be done on a longboard. The music would be eclectic and danceable. The climate would be tropical or Mediterranean. I would also want to run writing workshops sometimes, but that’s getting back to teaching (which I naturally lean toward, but also leans away from answering this question!)

What is the most important thing one has to learn at school?

That you will be your own best teacher, eventually. In other words, each step in one’s formal education should be a step closer to independent self-education. The more skills and knowledge you accumulate, the better equipped one is to teach themselves. I love books about self education — The Autobiography of Malcom X and The Narrative of Frederick Douglass come to mind. More recently, there’s the memoir ‘Educated’ by Tara Westover. My mentor professor at UCLA, Robert Hill, sent me off with these words: “You have all the tools you need, Dominic. You don’t need another graduate degree. All you need is a good bookstore. You are your own best teacher now.”

What would you say to your 13 year old self?

“It’s not all about you, dude!” I was very self-centered at that time and did not think outside of the bubble that radiated around my navel-gazing, athletically pre-occupied head. It would also serve as a good warning for high school, where I soon realized that I had been a big fish in a very small Catholic school pond. It was a rude–but very necessary– awakening. A good ole slap in the face!

Please recommend a book to read

I already recommended 3.


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