Carmen Simo-Perkins with Drama Club

Carmen Simo-Perkins is a magnet for middle school kids.

Her tattoos, piercings, vibrant hair, and sense of fashion make her not only fun and interesting but also a standout presence. However, Carmen is so much more.

As a thoughtful and intelligent classroom aide, Carmen has discovered her niche at CCMS. Specializing in working with seventh grade special education students, she sees herself as a big sister and a teacher figure in their lives. She said it’s a great feeling to know the students are genuinely happy to see her. “I feel like, when they see me, their mood changes. They’re always excited whenever I go into a room,” she said. “It’s weird seeing a room light up, but it makes me happy.”

Her secret to connecting with students lies in showing respect and being attentive when they communicate with her. “You give them respect and they give it back,” she said matter-of-factly. Carmen’s main goal is to help students catch up on their work, remind them to stay focused and provide overall support in the classroom.

“Carmen is a valued member of the CCMS community,” said CCMS Principal Dr. Robin Stephenson. “Carmen not only excels in assisting teachers and students within the academic setting, but also takes on additional responsibilities that enhance our students’ overall school experiences. We appreciate Carmen’s commitment to CCMS.”

Carmen is a native of Spain and didn’t move to the United States until 2011. Her mother was an American and her father is from Spain. She is bilingual, but found it hard to acclimate to America as a young child. “I was definitely the oddball,” she recalled, noting the Spanish speakers told her she didn’t speak properly and the English speakers told her she didn’t speak properly.

But, her personality wouldn’t allow her to quit and her parents encouraged her to persevere. So she did and today she uses both languages to help a lot of students. “Having someone speak the same language as you is a load off your shoulders,” she said.

This year, Carmen took on the role of drama club sponsor, effortlessly managing the needs of dozens for students while directing two simultaneous plays.

“I am so privileged to do drama,” she said with a big smile. “They have so much fun.”

She also runs the Panther Store, which is situated in her little corner of the world underneath the library. This store is used as a reward source for students who earn PBIS points throughout the school.

Carmen graduated from Carroll County High School in 2020 and went to the University of Kentucky to study music education with a minor in music performance. Like so many in the world, her plans were derailed by the COVID pandemic.

Two weeks into school, she was quarantined in her dorm room during the peak COVID time. She ultimately decided to come back home and a position opened for her at the middle school.

"I like doing this. It's comfortable for me, but it still makes me want to push myself. I'm not just caring for myself anymore," Carmen reflects on her role, now in her fourth year at CCMS. Beyond her day job, she actively supports the middle and high school bands, serves as a marching band assistant, and has taken on the unofficial role of band photographer. You can often find her playing a variety of instruments during band concerts, school assemblies and the high school pep band.

“I love it,” she said with a smile.

Carmen is continuing to work on her associate’s degree at JCTC and hopes to complete her bachelor’s degree, as originally planned. She’s been instrumental in helping a number of band students since coming home, so it seems only natural that she would become a music educator.