Bridging Museums, Schools

Bridging Museums, Schools

Erika Castillo is the Loudoun Museum’s new director of education.

Being a teacher was the last thing on Erika Castillo’s mind after seeing her parents, brother and aunt teach, but the Fairfax County resident is doing just that as director of education at the Loudoun Museum.

On Sept. 29, Castillo replaced Mark Summers, who along with former curator Randy Davis is working on furthering his education. As education director, Castillo educates students and adults about Loudoun’s history through programs, resource materials, and museum and walking tours in Leesburg, the location of the museum. She conducts school visits to provide Standards of Learning (SOL)-approved modules on different aspects of Loudoun’s history ranging from Native Americans and African-Americans to the Colonial Era and the Civil War. The modules include reproduction artifacts, power point presentations and activity ideas.

SO FAR, Castillo has visited three of Loudoun’s 61 public schools. During her visits, she tailors the modules to specific classroom needs or works with teachers to design new modules.

"She connects easily with the students. She’s very knowledgeable about her topic and she’s enthusiastic," said Marybeth Mohr, director of the Loudoun Museum. "She has a great background in education as well as local history, and she is excited to be here and have the opportunity to serve the citizens of Loudoun County."

Castillo provides outreach to senior citizen groups and homes, scouting groups to help the scouts earn badges and to community groups to give the history of the area where they meet or live and other historical information they may request.

"I absolutely love that it’s my job to read, write, research and teach about history," Castillo said. "Those are all things I love to do."

Castillo, who plans to move to Leesburg by the end of the year, taught social studies for seven years before taking the position at the Loudoun Museum. She originally and "adamantly" did not want to be a teacher. "I knew I wanted to major in history, but I absolutely didn’t want to be a teacher any time," she said.

Castillo was working at a bookstore in Pentagon City after graduating with a bachelor’s then a master’s degree in history in 1991 and 1994 respectively. The principal of Woodson Adult High School, an alternative school in Fairfax County, offered her a part-time government teaching position, and she took it. "I fell in love with teaching the kids," she said, adding that teaching gave her the chance to share her passion and enthusiasm for history with the students. "I came to it in a roundabout sort of way."

LIKEWISE, Castillo found her interest in history in a similar manner. She did not realize until she was in the 11th grade at a Fairfax County school that Fairfax County was the "hotbed" of the Civil War, as taught to her by a U.S. history teacher. "It was at that point I became fascinated with history. … My favorite question is ‘why?’ It’s like the little four-year-old."

In 1998, Castillo returned to school to complete her coursework in education. In the meantime, she taught at Woodson from 1996 to 2000, then took a teaching position in Richmond and in August 2002 in Arlington.

"I’ve always been interested in preservation of history. This is probably the perfect position, because I still provide classroom resources, I still teach," Castillo said.