By Victoria Gayarre
Ten years ago, the seeds of Mater Lakes Academy were planted, and as school began to grow, administration recruited faculty who would be able to grow along with it. Among the original members was the first science teacher of Mater Lakes, John Brañas.
When Brañas, initially joined MLA, he hated it. He had never taught, never even planned on becoming a teacher, but as he explained, “under the circumstances, I kinda just fell into it.”
Born and raised in Miami, Brañas was just not much different from the students he teaches everyday. He stated, “I liked high school, I was one of those kids that was able to navigate it really well.” Throughout his high school years, Branñs participated in a little bit of everything: from sports to SGA (Student Government association), even participating in the school band.
When asked about his favorite childhood memories, Brañas runs his hand through his dark hair and smiles, mumbling a “hmm” before saying, “I don’t know if I could pinpoint one. I enjoyed my childhood.”
As Brañas continued to grow older, he went on to get a major in science at Florida International University. Initially, he planned on going into Environmental Law, which works to improve the natural environment by creating laws to prevent damaging human activity from negatively affecting the surrounding areas. However as time continued, “the necessity for a job” led Brañas to find a career elsewhere.
As Brañas began his search for a job, a friend contacted him, informing him that a position was opening up at a new school, named Mater Lakes Academy. He was there for the first meeting and each change in buildings the charter school had as they hoped to grow.
When he first began teaching, John Brañas was miserable. He laughed, adjusting himself in his blue chair before explaining, “Franco was the only person that thought I would make it, and they started a bet in the office because everyday I would go and whine about it. I was so crazy! Franco was the only one that thought I would make it- he’s so sweet.” As time continued, it was clear Brañas was there to stay and math teacher Rogelio Franco quickly won the money.
Over the last ten years, Brañas has taught nearly every science course including biology, physics, and earth space science. Today, he teaches environmental science and comprehensive science two for seventh graders.
Junior Christopher Aguilar said, “His stories and the way his examples were jokes were my favorite thing.”
Brañas goes on to explain that teaching became easier as time went on, and the slowly he grew to love it. He grins, “it makes a difference if you really care about teaching, it makes the time worth while, ‘cause of the influence you might potentially have.”
He hopes to be remembered by his students as “someone that was actually working to help them.”
Although Brañas has grown to enjoy his job, he hopes to eventually leave the profession. Brañas’ true passion is art. He said in reference to his goals for the future, “um to become a surviving artist.”
He paints abstract art with a variety of shapes and colors but tends to “sprinkle” his favorite color red wherever he can.
Although he hopes to someday become an artist, and tries to spend a couple times a week on his painting, he will continue to teach for financial reasons.
He explains one of his hardest moments in his life was taking care of his family and their dry cleaners business. “They got old so it fell to me, so I guess I would say that was my biggest struggle.”
He hopes to one day travel to the “holy land,” Egypt, and one of the poles. He stated that he enjoys summers the most and tries to travel as much as he can, “any place that gets you out of home is good, not that home is bad, but you get to experience new things.”
After being asked what one lesson he would like his students to forever remember he stopped mumbling a “wow” and finally continuing with a “um- educate yourself because it will prepare you for whatever comes ahead.”
Former student, tenth grader Simon Volasco stated, “He is pretty much open to any discussion, any topic, and he always asked questions and was truly interested in what we had to say.”
Eventually the time will come when he will finally be able to move on from teaching but for now, Brañas is here to stay.