Staff Spotlight: Mrs. Charles


Mrs. Charles is hard at work in her new home at Wilcox. Courtesy of Kiana Guanga

In early January, the Wilcox staff welcomed a new member—Mrs. Charles. Mrs. Charles is one of the school’s two financial literacy teachers alongside Mr. Rafetto, who has taught the subject since joining the Wilcox community 15 years ago. 

Mrs. Charles was born in Albuquerque, New Mexico. She was unsure what she wanted to do career-wise until she attended Santa Clara University and joined its Leavey School of Business, where she was immensely intrigued by the courses. Mrs. Charles always appreciated practical finance and accounting, had always excelled in math, was aware that there were many opportunities in the accounting field, and ultimately opted to pursue it as a career path. She received her Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting at Santa Clara and earned her Certified Public Accounting license two years later. Mrs. Charles experimented with the different areas of finance to figure out which she was most skilled in, and eventually found herself on the communications side of the field. 

After graduating from university in 1991, Mrs. Charles spent a year as a volunteer in the Jesuit Volunteer Corps in New York. She then worked at Cooper’s & Lybrand as an auditor in San Jose—she found this time thrilling, as the Silicon Valley was developing rapidly. After 4 and a half years, she moved to start-up company Latitude Communications and worked there for five years. Mrs. Charles enjoyed her time working at Latitude—it represented everything that could be read about startups in the Bay Area at the time. In 2001, Mrs. Charles moved to Cisco Systems, Inc. in Santa Clara where she worked in Executive Communications for the President and CFO, focusing on financial communications. She then moved with Cisco to London and ran their Investor Relations Department for Europe, the Middle East, and Africa. 

After working at Cisco, she took some time off to raise her kids. They continued living in London for another few years, then moved to Bristol in the United Kingdom where they lived for almost eight years. Mrs. Charles and her family moved back to California in 2015, where she had a couple of side hustles over the following years. 

Mrs. Charles has always felt that the topic of financial literacy is important and that it should be a part of the California curriculum, similar to some other states. She was not looking to be a teacher, but she happened to be helping a friend who was searching for a job and saw a listing at Wilcox. Mrs. Charles knew that financial literacy is a great fit for her—a topic that she truly enjoys. Additionally, the schedule was perfect for her as a mother with three teenagers; she knew it would provide her a great balance between home and work. 

Mrs. Charles makes her two financial literacy periods insightful, engaging, and fun for her students. Through videos, class activities, and weekly packets, she teaches her students the fundamentals of financial literacy and demonstrates the importance of gaining early exposure to it. Mrs. Charles starts two to three classes each week with a question circle, in which she asks non-finance-related questions to get her students engaged and ready to learn. “Mrs. Charles is innovative with the curriculum,” states her financial literacy counterpart, Mr. Raffetto. “We both teach the same core principles, but she has been able to adapt some of what we do to her own style and I think that is great. We are lucky to have her.”

Mrs. Charles returns the praise to Mr. Rafetto: “Tony Rafetto and [other members of the Wilcox community] have done an amazing job creating and growing a business path at Wilcox. Between the financial literacy and investing classes as well as the very successful Wilcox Business Experience club, it is amazing. I haven’t seen it at any other high school. ” She wishes that these business-related programs and classes existed at this level at the high school her children attend. 

Mrs. Charles spends the majority of her free time with her family – three children and her husband – and friends. She enjoys biking in the mountains near Los Gatos and taking her dog to the beach. Her absolute favorite activity is a long, sit-down dinner with her family and friends.

While adjusting to her new home at Wilcox, Mrs. Charles also seeks to make a lasting impact on the school community. If you are ever in need of financial advice, consider reaching out to Mrs. Charles!