Introduction to new Branson teachers


By Sarah Lind

Caroline Santinelli

Caroline Santinelli, a new English teacher, loves reading and working with her students.

Born and raised outside of Boston, Santinelli went to college back East before moving to Leadville, Colorado. She worked there for the last four years in various teaching jobs and recently moved to California to teach at Branson. 

Originally inspired by her ninth-grade English teacher, Santinelli has stuck to teaching because she hasn’t found anything else that feels more meaningful than helping young people learn and how to understand the world around them.

“I love that moment where people or students realize that language has so much power,” said Santinelli. She added, “There is a Robert Frost quote that I really like. He said, ‘To learn to write is to learn how to have ideas.’ And I think that captures a lot of why I love teaching English.”

Santinelli has had a lifelong love of books starting with “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen, commenting, “I loved that it was just about women being women.” More recently, her favorite book is either Maggie Nelson’s “The Argonaut” or Richard Powers’ “The Overstory.” 

Santinelli’s go-to quarantine activity has been getting outside. She loves being in nature and goes on walks while listening to podcasts. 

“When I can, I’m outside mountain biking or road biking or climbing which is great,” she said. 

More recently, due to smoke, she has been unable to go out as much and has instead turned to online pilates. Santinelli has also been known to knit when she needs something to do with her hands. 

A fun fact about Santinelli is that two years ago she committed to only buying clothing from either companies that are sustainable for the environment and ethically produce their clothing, or from thrift stores or friends who like recycling or upcycling. 

“It is fascinating and tragic to research it [sustainable fashion], how much waste is involved,” she said. She also added that it is, “kind of a fun puzzle to figure out how to source all of your clothes this way and it makes you own a lot less clothing.” 

Santinelli is excited to join the Branson community.

“I am excited to just meet all of the students and… figure out together, how to make the things that people love about school communities like Branson, feel alive even though we are in such a weird time,” she said.


Arturo Acevedo

As a Spanish teacher, Arturo Acevedo is motivated by his love of language and is looking forward to getting to know the Branson community.

Growing up, Acevedo did not have the greatest experiences with teachers, facing many microaggressions throughout his time as a student. 

“I wanted to be the teacher that I saw my students didn’t have, especially for students who come from other backgrounds,” he said. 

Acevedo strives to be a guide or support for his students, adding, “I think that education is the best way to improve and better the world.” He said his greatest purpose in life is to make the world a better place. 

Acevedo is looking forward to getting to know more of the Branson community and getting involved in extracurricular activities. At previous schools, he had active roles in the Latinx and GSA clubs. He is also excited to hopefully be back on the Branson campus soon and enjoy the beautiful scenery and food. 

So far in online learning, he said, “I’ve been really happy with how willing … the students are to go the extra mile or really engage in assignments without any complaints.”

Born and raised in Puerto Rico until he was 6, Acevedo has a great appreciation for his heritage and culture. 

“I really like what we do in the upper level classes,” he said. “I can actually teach my culture and the history of Latin America to students.” He added, “I like talking about the history of language and what a big impact our first language can have on us.”

Acevedo has also spent much time traveling and abroad, and has hiked the 700 mile Way of St. James twice, which spans across France and Spain. These trips made him realize that life isn’t about the destination, it’s about the voyage. 

“It’s about living the day to day… you don’t need much to be happy,” he said. 

Having lived in many different places around the world, Acevedo said that his favorite food depends on where he is living at the time. “When I was in Brooklyn, it was pizza. But then I was in Sweden and I loved the Kanelbullar, which are like cinnamon rolls. When I’m here [California] it’s definitely the Mexican food.” 

Acevedo also enjoys decompressing after school by playing FIFA, a soccer video game.  


Shujun Xiang

Inspired by a love of her culture and an influential teacher, Shujun Xiang is excited to be a Chinese teacher this year at Branson. 

Xiang was born in an old Asian city founded almost 2,000 years ago. She was brought up by her grandparents, and lived in Wuhan, China, for most of her youth. She proceeded to complete her elementary, middle, and high school education in Jinzhong, China.

Xiang’s inspiration to become an educator mainly stemmed from her favorite teacher in high school. 

“He was very nice to us students,” she said. “His manner … his personality … his teaching style, everything was perfect.” He became a role model for her and inspired Xiang to follow the same career path as he did. 

Xiang quickly found success and joy as a teacher in China. She eventually became awarded as one of the top rated teachers across China. However, she has not stopped learning. 

“I still try to improve myself everyday. I learn from students,” Xiang said. “Learning language, exploring culture, it broadens your world, broadens your horizons. It brings you to more people, more culture, more architecture, everything.”

During this difficult time of quarantine, Xiang has been keeping her stuck at home life fun and interesting by practicing folk dancing and learning how to sing along to beating drums. In addition, she loves the community of Ross and the Branson campus. 

“I love walks,” she said. “I go to every inch of campus and walk around.” Xiang also enjoys writing Chinese poems every weekend, and spends lots of time preparing for her five different Branson classes. 

Xiang is very excited to join the Branson community. 

When asked what she likes about Branson, she said, “The history, the students, the faculty, the job, everything! I just love it!” 

Xiang added, “Deep in my heart I am a very young and curious person.”


Erin Mansur

Spurred on by a passion for stories and a love of writing, Erin Mansur is very excited to be teaching English at Branson this year. 

Growing up with a railroad engineer as a father and a phlebotomist as a mother, Mansur moved often throughout her childhood and adolescence. After college, Mansur traveled and spent time abroad experiencing new places and cultures before settling in New York City where she lived for 19 years.

Mansur recently moved to California, and her favorite part about California is all the greenery and trees in the Bay Area. Mansur is also deaf, having just enough residual hearing in one ear so that she knows when noise is being made, just not what it is.

Mansur has worked with young people for her whole life. Coming from a big family and being the eldest of many siblings, Mansur had a natural affinity for teaching.

“I have worked with young people my entire adult life,” she said.

She first started as a substitute teacher and since then has taught all levels of education from preschool to graduate school.

“High school is such an exciting age. It’s so fascinating. So many great things are happening. I am so excited to be working with high schoolers,” she said. 

Mansur loves teaching English because the subject revolves around the exchange of stories.

“Stories are the most incredible things to pass on to people,” she said. “You learn so much from hearing what other people have to say. The ability to unlock the story is inside of you and for me to get the opportunity to hear other people’s stories, especially young people stories, is so exciting.” 

As well as an English teacher, Mansur identifies as a storyteller. She started keeping a journal when she was 17. It started as letters to her children because she wished she had known what her grandparents were like when they were her age. Now, she journals every day about what is going on in the world and how she feels about it. 

She added that because of her journals, “I can always remember the anniversary of meeting someone for the first time and my first impressions of them.” 

So far, Mansur’s go-to quarantine activity has been a book and cooking club where she and her friends choose a book to read and then create a menu based on that book. Each person brings a dish based on a character from the book. 

Most recently, she “started to read all of Shakespeare’s plays again and created a cookie based on each one of Shakespeare’s plays.”

Mansur currently lives with her cat Judah who likes to introduce himself to her students by walking across her Zoom screen during class. Her favorite book is “Cold Mountain” by Charles Frazier which is a retelling of “The Odyssey” taking place during the Civil War.