INFLUENCER OF THE WEEK: Christy Barrientes, Keene’s Crossing Elementary School

This week's school influencer is a third-grade teacher at Keene's Crossing Elementary who gives generously of her time.

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Christy Barrientes, a third-grade teacher at Keene’s Crossing Elementary School, is a responsible and dedicated professional who demonstrates a strong work ethic and passion for education. Her principal, Dr. Tracy Webley, said her knowledge, teaching practices and leadership abilities are evident on a daily basis through her roles as a teacher; member of the faculty advisory committee, PTO and SAC; and Chess Club coach. She is also a great collaborator, mentor and lifelong learner.

“Her flexibility in working with students, teachers and parents has earned her an enviable reputation as an excellent leader who truly cares about people,” Webley said. “To carry out her professional responsibilities, she gives generously of her valuable time, and often her work extends beyond the school day.”

She also has worked with KCES summer reading camps and has taught an intellectual S.T.E.M. crew for many Saturday and after-school opportunities.

What brought you to your school?

I had been a part of one school opening from ground zero once before. It was an amazing experience and a perfect learning opportunity, so when I heard a new school was being built, I was super excited to get on board!

What do you love most about your school?

Keene's Crossing is a tight-knit family with a strong, supportive community and staff that really builds together, and it never stops growing. I love how innovative and creative our learners are and how my family of teachers really waters that innovating seed by allowing students to learn in their own way at their own pace. From problem solving to chess to robotics, and so much more, students are really given opportunities to flourish.

What is the most rewarding part of your job?

Hands down, the students are the most rewarding! Dr. Webley, our new principal, invited us to use the word "scholar" to describe all of our learners, and I couldn't agree more. They, like scholars, are hungry for knowledge and can't wait to expand their minds.

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

My other passion is baking, and I have had a few chances to merge the two when our PTO bid a cooking class to the highest bidder for a fundraiser. I think no matter what profession I choose, I always find myself in my niche when surrounded by children. I believe it's because my inner child runs the show!

Who influences you?

My own children have been a great influence in my life. They are all quite diverse in their learning styles and have chosen paths based on their passions, which couldn't make me happier!

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

My third-grade teacher, Mrs. Hinman, with her bright, carrot-top hair, freckles to match and an energy that would excite every child to learn something new. She not only showed a passion for learning but a passion for the learner that I will never forget!

What is your favorite children’s book and why?

My current favorite author is Andrew Clements with his stories relatable to almost every child and a humor mixed with a valuable lesson that intrigues readers of all levels.

What do you like to do in your spare time?

I bake and cook in my spare time. I also spend a great deal of time with my young adult children doing anything from paint night to game night to "veg out to old movies" night.

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

I would love to dine with Maya Angelou. I read that she didn't speak for the longest time as a child, but when she did, oh what beautiful words and strength she had to give. She overcame so much, and I would love to see the woman behind such a rising.

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

Besides teaching? I would love to be able to teleport. I grew up in the same, small town my whole life, and all I ever dreamed of doing was getting out and seeing the world. I started that adventure by packing up after graduation and moving to the sunny, east coast of Florida. And I stopped there. As a teacher and mom of four, I find time and finances a huge challenge in traveling the world. So, why not teleport to the Eiffel Tower?!

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

If I only had three bands or artist to listen to or watch for the rest of my life, I choose King and Country for their amazing percussions and fabulous stage presence, Imagine Dragons for the connection it gives me to my brother, and Chris Stapleton for the connection he gives to my soul and roots.

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

PBJ was my go-to lunch, and I loved Bugles because my granny would always put them on her fingertips and cackle like an old witch as we ate them together.

What is your favorite holiday and why?

My favorite holidays are Thanksgiving and Christmas for the family togetherness and, of course, bonding over food!

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

I have two best friends, Shannon and Jennifer, that I met in elementary school and they fast became my "sisters from other mothers." We were all so very different, but like magnets, we were drawn to each other. We have been through everything together and, yes, we definitely stay in touch — weekly texts at the very least. We have been there for the births of our babies to the deaths of our loved ones and every joy in between. We often laugh about how we will definitely be the next Golden Girls!

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

I was in honor society from seventh through 12th grade and all the volunteering that came with. I did not do much else in high school, as I was a very shy, nerdy student just trying to blend into the background.

How long have you been at your school and with OCPS?

I have worked with OCPS since the beginning of my teaching career, 21 years ago. I have been with Keene's Crossing Elementary since its opening in 2009, 14 years running.


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