The Mound House has a new full-time educator, Katy Beth Culp, while long-time Mound House educator Penny Jarrett is moving to a part-time role. This week, the Island Sand Paper talked with Culp about her background and plans.
“I am originally from Lancaster, South Carolina,” said Katy Beth Culp. “I attended Clemson University, so ‘Go Tigers,’ graduating in 2015 with a Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences. Since then and prior to the Mound House, I was an environmental educator for several different environmental camps all along the East Coast, but mostly in Georgia, where I taught kids ecology. The primary age group was 5th Grade, but I worked with children from pre-K through age 13, and sometimes even adults.”
Until recently, Katy Beth had no knowledge about the Mound House: “I had never heard of it,” she says with a laugh! “I wanted a quality full-time employment opportunity, as the educational camps were seasonal, but I loved that and wanted to continue with environmental education, especially outdoors, and I came across the Mound House. I was really excited, as it checked all the boxes for me, and now that I am lucky enough to be here, it feels like a perfect match for me, as it is not just environmental education but history and culture and archaeology. All those are interconnected, and I can do them all at the Mound House without having to choose!”
Not only is Katy Beth new to the Mound House, but also to Fort Myers Beach. “I knew it was warm and I am happy about that, as I am from the South and a warm-weather person! I also like that it is on the coast, like most of my previous jobs, so that fits my style. Everything I see so far I like, so I am excited to get to experience more of Fort Myers Beach and Southwest Florida soon.”
She is still learning her Mound House duties as well. “I enjoy shadowing Dexter (Norris) and Penny (Jarrett) on programs, opening and closing the complex, meeting all the terrific volunteers and helping out in the Museum Store, as I really love all that stuff! I am starting to do some tours and am already formulating thoughts to implement program-wise, but there is still so much to learn. I am asking all kinds of questions and have great teachers!”
One thought that ran through her mind: “My Mound House career began at the best and worst of times, as we were already right in the middle of season! I am looking forward to the summer, when everyone can catch their breath a bit, and I can begin my own events, as my wheels constantly turn.”
Katy Beth knows she’s in a great place, surrounded by people who love the Mound House and go out of their way to make her feel like she is already a valued member of the team and family. “Everyone is so wonderful,” she exclaimed! “All the folks I meet seem to be genuinely good people who are honest and down to earth and care not only about the mission of the Mound House but each other, and that goes a long way to making me feel great about being here. If you are lucky enough to be in a community of great people, you can almost guarantee you will enjoy a great time, so I am happy I am getting to meet and like everyone.”
The Mound House, at 451 Connecticut Street, is the oldest standing structure on Estero Island. The Town-owned museum complex offers numerous educational programs, including guided tours to explore the 2,000-year-old Calusa Indian Shell Mound, beach walks, and kayak eco-tours. Museum admission is $10 for ages 13 & up, $8 for students with IDs, $5 ages 6 to 12 and 5 & under free, with Town residents receiving a 50% discount. It is open Tuesdays through Saturdays through May 1 from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., then shifts to Tuesdays, Wednesdays, & Saturdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, call 239-765-0865 or visit www.moundhouse.org.
As for Katy Beth, she contemplated her transition: “When you move to a new community, don’t know a single person, and begin a new job in the middle of the busiest season, well – my goodness – that can be intimidating and overwhelming, yet all I feel is the excitement about being at the Mound House and Fort Myers Beach. I already know this is a special place with special people, so I am thrilled to be here and can’t wait to start making my own contributions to this long and rich history!”
By Gary Mooney