INFLUENCER OF THE WEEK: Milena Barros, KLA Schools of Horizon West

Milena Barros is the pedagogist at KLA Schools of Horizon West.

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Milena Barros is the pedagogist at KLA Schools of Horizon West. She is the link between the relationships that happen at school. She also coordinates the school’s long- and short-term projects, which are the basis of the curriculum in the Reggio Emilia approach. Tina Le, owner of the school, said Barros began as an assistant, but through her passion for education and the Reggio Emilia approach, she went on to become a teacher and then the pedagogist. “She inspires us all!” Le said. 

What brought you to your school?

I had worked in Reggio Emilia schools in Italy, and after I moved to Orlando from Brazil, I just wanted to work in a school that would take inspiration from that respectful approach.

What do you love most about your school?

Does it need to be just one thing? It’s difficult to choose just one thing when you are in such a great place! The environment is amazing and provokes kids in so many ways. The Reggio Emilia approach is so respectful with the children, our admin team is superhuman, we document every path of the kids, and we research from that material. And on the top of everything, we have a place with the truest energy on the planet: the kids! When you work with kids — listening to them, taking under consideration their ideas, hypothesis, curiosities — you have the best from them! And then it’s so good to be in this place with them.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The “marvel” moments that the kids and the teachers have. When a kid builds (his or her) own knowledge by themselves, that unique expression is remarkable. I have thousands of pictures of different kids having this “marvel” moment. And it’s no different with the teachers. In our weekly meetings, while we’re sharing our experiences or reading an article, we also have our “aha” moments. It’s such a great feeling, and then we understand how our children feel!

What would you be if you weren’t in this profession?  

I would be crying. I’m 53. Since I was 17 years old, I have been a teacher. I sold all my things when I graduated in pedagogy just to move to Italy and get to know the Reggio Emilia approach. This is my source of happiness, but my second choice would be cooking. I love to cook!

Who influences you? 

Professor Loris Malaguzzi and Mrs Carlina Rinaldi, from Reggio Emilia.

Who was your favorite teacher when you were in school? Why?

I always ask myself: “If I was a child, who would I like to have as a teacher?” Then I remember this math teacher that I had that I loved so much. Teacher Ana. I hated math, but this woman made me love it! 

What is your favorite children’s book and why?

I love Dr. Seuss books, especially “My Many Colored Days.” But my favorite book of all is “The Color Monster” by Anna Llenas. She approaches the feelings in such a dedicated and respectful way by making metaphors with the colors. All the times I read this book to my kids, we had amazing feedback! So, it brings back good memories.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I love reading. I read a lot. I also love going to the movies.

If you could dine with any famous person, past or present, who would it be and why?

I would choose to have dinner with Professor Loris Malaguzzi. I would ask him so many things about the learning process, about his past experience as a teacher, about all the amazing things he created in his school’s approach. Definitely him!

If you could have any superpower, what would it be and why?

My superpower would be childish and utopian, but it’s so good to be able to imagine that it could exist. I could take suffering away from any child! Any suffering!

If you could only listen to three bands or artists, who would they be and why?

Caetano Veloso, Brazilian bossanova singer; Jamie Culum, jazz singer; and The Beatles. I adore them.

What was your go-to lunch and favorite snack as an elementary student?

It was a Brazilian sweet snack done with banana, sugar, cinnamon and puff pastry called “Banana Real.”

What is your favorite holiday and why?

Christmas. It brings me great memories of my own kids’ expressions at this time of the year.

Who was your best friend when you were in school and why? Are you still in touch?

My five best friends in school are still my friends today! We met (one another) when we could barely speak. We were 2 years old, and we still meet whenever I travel to Brazil!

What were your extracurricular activities as a student? Did you win any accolades or honors?

So, we don’t have an honors program in Brazil, but I did ballet, tap dance, French and cooking classes.



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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