The Blue and White

Dont Snoozerous on Mrs. Houvourous

Don't Snoozerous on Mrs. Houvourous, Staff Writer

The Blue & White had the amazing opportunity to interview its illustrious sponsor and Apopka High School teacher, Mrs. Erika Houvouras. We got to learn more about her passion for teaching and her distaste for recent Florida legislation that limits what teachers can teach in class. She shared with us some of her awesome adventures around the world and new places she'd like to visit. Her devotion to being the best teacher she can has even gone as far as her and her husband becoming ordained marriage officiants!

I spend almost all of my time either at school or doing school stuff, so over eight hours a day spent in this classroom, which is why it is important to me that the classroom is homey, and comfortable, and interesting. When I get home, I spend a whole lot of time working on school work. Ideally, I would prioritize my family and play with my grandchildren, but the honest truth is that from August through May, 90% of my focus is on my students. In my free time, usually, I'm playing with my grandchildren, India and Glory, and there's about to be a third one, Dallas. Mr. Houvouras and I like to travel, and unfortunately COVID knocked that out for quite a while, so this summer we traveled a lot. We spent some time in Salt Lake City, Utah. We went to Northern Ireland for just over a week, and then we traveled to West Virginia where his family is from and we had a family reunion there. I believe that the best education is travel and seeing how different people live in different places. We try to do that as much as we can on our very meager teacher salary.

What are some other places you'd like to travel to eventually?

A few years ago we went on a trip to Europe, and we had a long layover in Oslo, Norway. We just had to spend one day there, and it was the most beautiful, cleanest place I have ever been to in my life. I would love to go spend more time there. It was magical. You could almost picture fairytale creatures coming out of the forests. The water was beautiful, everything was green and clean, so I'd like to go there. You know what, I want to go to Germany. My mother was born and raised in Germany and I've never been. I've been to a bunch of different places in Europe and I've never visited where my mother was born and grew up. I wish I had had the opportunity to go with her before she passed away. When she moved here when she was eighteen, she never went back to Germany. She never got to see her family on that side again. I would like to go back and walk the places that my mom walked.

West Berlin, right?

They don't call it West anymore because the wall came down.

What obstacles have you faced, big and small, throughout your life?

My life is a lot longer than your life, so I've had more. In my youth, not that it was an obstacle but it was a challenge to be a mixed-race kid in the area, and in a time period where that was kind've unheard of. Nowadays, so many kids are mixed race [so] no one thinks about it. When I was growing up, that was really out of the ordinary, people would ask me about it, ask me if my mom adopted me, ask why I talked the way I talk. It just was kind've a pain in the butt, and you did have to figure out what group you could fit into and who was accepting. As an adult, I would say one of the greatest obstacles I deal with is people making decisions about my career that have no idea how to do my job. People in government, people at the Orange County school board that have no idea what it's really like to be in the classroom, but they send down all these dictates of things they want us doing in the classroom without any understanding of the reality and how time consuming and overwhelming [it is.] My way of dealing with that is to ignore it, and close my door and do what I do in the classroom and it seems to have worked out okay so far so I'm just going to keep doing that. Recently, of course, there is legislation--they refer to it as the 'don't say gay' bill and 'don't say woke' bill, limiting what we can teach as far as what's appropriate to students. Luckily for me, I teach a college level class, and we don't fall under that umbrella, so I still can teach what I want. To me as a literature teacher, you're supposed to expose kids to a lot of different things, and if it offends people, then you deal with that, you work through it, as a person that wants to grow and evolve, sometimes things will offend and you have to self reflect; "Why did I find that offensive? Let's talk it out."I think that's the purpose of literature, to push buttons and make you think and make you question yourself. To take that away from us, that removes a huge portion of the purpose of education. That's ridiculous to me. It annoys me for my colleagues that feel that they have to perform under that legislation. I'm very lucky that because I teach AP classes, I'm left alone.

What makes you proud? What are your accomplishments that make you proud in life?

I'm proudest of my children. I raised decent human beings. I have a lot of faith in them that they will make good decisions and try to make the world a better place. I'm very proud of that. I'm very proud of my teaching, I think that I make great connections with my students. I love that students keep in touch with me throughout their lives. Mr. Houvouras and I became ordained ministers to perform a wedding for a student last year that reached out to us and said there was no one else they could think of that they'd want to perform their wedding. Ms. Munyon's daughter actually reached out to us and asked if we'd perform her wedding as well. I am very proud of the fact that I've impacted and made connections, that they would want me there on the most special day. That to me is awesome.

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