Chris Pombonyo ’12 views the classroom as a theatrical stage, and he wants Central Florida’s children to know they are the star of the show. With a background in the performing arts, Pombonyo regularly integrated aspects of the arts into his teaching.
“Education is my passion,” says Pombonyo, who will be graduating with a master’s of educational leadership degree during UCF’s Spring 2021 Graduation Celebration. “There is no better feeling than watching students’ faces light up in the classroom because of how excited they are for that day’s lesson. By creating unique, outside-the-box learning experiences, I was able to teach at a high level and keep students loving the show.”
By creating unique, outside-the-box learning experiences, I was able to teach at a high level and keep students loving the show.”
For specific lessons, Pombonyo meticulously transformed his classroom’s decor around various children’s pop culture themes, including Jumanji, Candyland, StarBOOKS cafe, Pizza Planet and more. Throughout the school year, framed headshots of each child hung prominently at the head of the classroom, surrounding the words “You Matter.” Educational-themed song and dance performances — with Pombonyo in elaborate costumes – were a classroom norm. Pombonyo takes pride in unconventional approaches that helps to effectively relay information to the students.
Pombonyo’s unique teaching methods have earned him local acclaim. He was named the 2017 Seminole County Elementary School Teacher of the Year as well as Macy’s Magic of Innovation Educational Award. UCF has honored him with the university’s 2016 Alumni 30 Under 30 designation as well as the UCF Keeper of the Creed Award for Creativity in 2012. Additionally, Pombonyo’s work in education has been recognized by such national entities as Disney, NASDAQ, and EduTV.
With his graduate degree from UCF now in hand, Pombonyo plans to focus his career towards educational leadership. Currently, he serves as an administrator at Midway Elementary School of the Arts in Sanford, Florida, where he works to implement innovative teaching practices into the school’s curriculum. Pombonyo says he wants to dedicate his career to helping teachers become better educators.
“I’ve found that a great lesson plan is only going to take you so far in an actual classroom. Great teachers have to be able to know how to truly engage children’s minds, and that look’s different in every classroom,” says Pombonyo, who will be joining UCF’s School of Teacher Education faculty as an adjunct professor this summer. “The performing arts sparked my teaching imagination, but every educator has to find what works best for them. I want to help teachers and future teachers find their passion in education and impact as many classrooms as possible.”
I want to help teachers and future teachers find their passion in education and impact as many classrooms as possible.”
A native of Long Island, New York, Pombonyo says he knew in childhood that he was going to grow up to be a professional educator. His mother – who has taught preschool for nearly 30-years — served as the inspiration behind his career aspirations. In 2008, Pombonyo came to UCF to pursue an undergraduate degree in elementary education. Since graduating from the university in 2012, he has taught within elementary schools in both New York City and Seminole County Public Schools.
Following commencement, Pombonyo plans to remain in Central Florida. He says the region is ideal for integrating his passions for education and the performing arts. Away from the classroom, he was a host for Radio Disney and the Walt Disney Company for more than five years. From time-to-time he performs in various local theater productions.
A rising figure in the education community, Pombonyo has served as the creative director and a lead presenter for the Get Your Teach On National Educator Conference. Additionally, his insights into innovative approaches to teaching with high academic results, have been shared at educational conferences across the country.
“For as far back as I can remember, education has played a significant role in my life,” says Pombonyo. “Teaching is more than just a job, it is a calling for me, just like the thousands of other professional educators who step into the classroom every day. I am living my dream and doing what I truly love by getting to work with teachers and students each day.”