A former Somerville Public Schools student gives her time to Winter Hill 2nd and 3rd Grade classrooms - with her former teachers!
It didn’t take long for Flavia DeSousa to find her niche again in Somerville. As a former student at the Winter Hill Community School and a 2017 Somerville High School graduate, Flavia and her family had to move to Medford, but she missed being closely connected with the Winter Hill School and Somerville community she’d grown to love.
When we met in September 2019 at a volunteer orientation, Flavia was taking a semester off to work and help defray the cost of her college tuition. Flavia had just changed her major to Early Childhood Education at UMass Boston, and was looking for in-class experience during this hiatus. An eloquent, enthusiastic, and thoughtful speaker, Flavia made an immediate impression on other attendees when she spoke about her fond memories as a student in Somerville Public Schools. Originally from Brazil, Flavia is bilingual in Portuguese and English, and proficient in Spanish. Flavia shared her memories as a student in Somerville Public Schools, and the work she feels compelled to do as a future teacher.
She spoke to me (SPS Volunteer Coordinator Jen Capuano) on November 18 at the Winter Hill Community Innovation School. Flavia has served there every Monday with third grade educator Julie Sahlas and second grade educator Maureen Cronin, in addition to working as a nanny.
Conversation with Flavia and Educators
SPS Volunteer Coordinator Jen Capuano: Thank you for taking time out to reconnect. Volunteers come to our schools through different paths and interests. How did you learn about volunteering with Somerville Public Schools?
Volunteer Flavia DeSousa: I googled Volunteer Somerville and the SPS Volunteer webpage popped up so I self-registered. I live in Medford now but I figured I’d be okay to come back.
JC: Why did you want to return to Somerville and specifically your elementary school?
FD: I love Somerville and still feel really connected here. I ran into my former principal a little while ago (former WHCIS Principal Steve Tuccelli) and he remembered my name. This is like seven years later, and he knew me. That’s what it was like here. They know who you are and remember you.
JC: That’s very cool. What were your first impressions when you returned to your elementary school?
FD: I couldn’t believe how different the school looked. The walls are now covered in Dr. Seuss quotes and art and lots of students’ work. It’s still the same school but now it’s more interesting and vibrant. The new playground is amazing. It’s not what we had, but we still had a lot of fun.
JC: What were your favorite subjects in elementary school?
FD: I loved science, writing and history. And I loved third grade.
JC: Why third grade?
FD: It was really fun and my teachers were great. I had the same teachers I’m working with now. We did a lot of fun things and we had a smaller class with some of my closest friends.
Educator Julie Sahlas: I think we had just 10 students in Flavia’s class that year. The students became tight-knit, they knew each other well and supported each other. The relationships I was able to build with each student and their families was incredible. You can’t do that as well with a larger class.
JC: What do you think Flavia brings to your students?
JS: Our students know that Flavia went to Somerville High School and is now in college. They know that she was one of my students, so they’re always asking her what she did in third grade and if she did the same things. They’re making real connections to what they may see themselves doing in a few years.
FD: Third graders are kind of fearless and they’ll ask just about anything.
JS: I’d love to tap into Flavia’s language [Portuguese] skills more here, with parent/teacher conferences or meetings.
JC: What kinds of things do you do in class?
FD: I do whatever is needed—sometimes I grade papers, or organize or hang up students’ work, circulate and answer questions during math or literacy blocks, or help students line up, tie shoe laces or help with coats. And Julie always has something I can do.
JS: It’s wonderful having another consistent adult in the classroom, and someone I know well and trust completely. It doesn’t take a lot of time to make sure she has something I or students could use help with.
JC: Do you want to share a favorite volunteer moment so far?
FD: I was invited to have lunch with teachers in the teachers’ lounge. That was pretty amazing.
JS: Seeing her in the lunch room, after having her as a student and now seeing her as a colleague.
Educator Maureen Cronin: Flavia has been terrific. Flavia has been so helpful and patient with the second graders, they love to see her enter the classroom. Instinctively, she notices who needs a little help and goes right to them. She was an exemplary second grader and is now an exemplary volunteer. I've been meaning to email her because so much was accomplished during her time in my class.
Julie Sahlas and Maureen Cronin both responded within 24 hours of Flavia’s volunteer referral, with an overwhelming YES to wanting Flavia to serve in their classrooms. Flavia splits her time between their classrooms. She plans to continue to work part-time, and return as a full-time student, Early Education major, to UMass Boston in January.
Become a Volunteer!
Want to learn more about volunteering in the Somerville Public Schools? We have lots of volunteer opportunities and flexible scheduling. Visit the Volunteers Web Page to learn more and get started!
J. Capuano. SPS Volunteer Coordinator, November 19, 2019