Learn more about the 2020-2021 New Jersey County Teachers of the Year:

What is your name & job title?

My Name is Lucia Giavatto-DiLeo I am a world language teacher at Manchester Township High School

Do you love your job? What do you love about it?

I don’t love it: I adore it!

Tell me about your students.

My students range from freshmen to seniors, they are all from different backgrounds, ethnicities and learning abilities. I love when they first walk into my classroom: they are either so serious or they don’t want to come in. Once they find their seat, and I start talking to them in Spanish or French: they become intrigued: Their faces tell it all!! When is she going to stop? What is she saying? Hey I am actually getting a word here and there!

Tell me about a project related to your work that you’re really proud of.

There are a few but the latest is working with ELL students and teaching my colleagues about SEL for these language learners. It came to my attention that the English Language Learners were in need of an educator that understood what it truly means to learn English. I presented a SEL presentation to the various schools and helped with the families were coming to live in the Manchester Township District from countries like: Vietnam, China, Italy, France and various parts of South and Central America.

What is your connection to your union/local association?

I have volunteered my time to help in the past. The association was looking for an event that drew the community into our schools. C.L.A.S.S night was created back in 2001, where the Community Learned or Shared Skills. It was an event sponsored by our local MTEA where my colleague Danielle DeSaro, now a teacher at Central Regional High and myself, invited by the educators of the district and the community to either share a skill or learn something. It was the bonding of a fruitful relationship between parents and educators.

Why did you choose a career in public education?

I am able to give back to society what I got: an education. I grew up in a household where my parents barely knew English and my teachers during the 7os helped me learn how to speak and read. They made such an impact on me and I was only 5 years old.

Have you had a teacher or educational support professional who inspired you?

Both my aunt and uncle are retired public school teachers. I used to love hearing their stories growing up. They inspired me, by not only going into public education, but to teach languages: I am a bargain teacher: I teach a range of subjects, history, science, culinary arts, literature, and geography all in Spanish or French.

If you had to describe public education in one word, what would that be?

Future! We teach future lawyers, doctors, pharmacists, accountants, business owners, electricians, and mechanics. We even have a student artist who has won Oscars, like Minor Gayton and students like Cpl. Nicholas S. Ott who lost their lives protecting our country. These are just a few of our future leaders that have graduated from Manchester Township High and have made a difference in our society.

Public education is facing many challenges. One is the impact that COVID-19 has had on how we teach and how students learn. What have you learned about how you, your colleagues, and your students adapted to remote instruction?

The pandemic has taught me to appreciate life even more not only as a human being, but mostly as a teacher. It is now, more than ever, that society has realized how important we are as teachers in the lives of society. Once we went virtual, our careers as educators were placed in the front line: people started realizing how challenging and rewarding teaching can be with their own children. It takes patience, love, organizational skills and willingness to learn from mistakes in order to soar above the obstacles of learning. Each individual learns differently, as we have seen not two people learn alike. Just like leaves in a tree in the fall, are not the same, so are students. It does not matter how old a student is, what matters is how to teach a subject equally to every individual student. The base of teaching during a pandemic is, for me at least, empathy and patience.

I used several platforms as best practices for virtual learning and methods by keeping the instruction engaging: I try to use traditional methods as well as online platforms to capture the essence of languages. From using inspirational quotes, videos, stories to applying what is taught via student presentations. Platforms I use are Quizlet, EdPuzzle, Flipfrid, Quizizz, Twitter and the plethora of other online resources that have been created and tested by many other teachers.

The pandemic has accentuated that parents are also teachers: maybe not teachers of a specific area or subject, but as individuals who educate their children. Families need not be nervous about the start of the school year. On the contrary, be appreciative of the fact that each school district has set a plans to help students succeed. Each school has carefully devised plans to student success as well as parent resources. She uses and slightly modified the acronym that Dr. Severns, motivational speaker that was invited to attend her district opening day and asks that families take time to L.E.A.R.N: Love and Listen to their child; be Enthusiastic and Empathetic in helping their children; Always be Authentic and Appreciative of what is given to them; Read and Respect school and classroom procedures; and Never give up asking questions. This all can be applied whether we are in person or remotely teaching children.

As a result of George Floyd’s murder, along with other tragedies targeting Black people, more and more people are supporting the Black Lives Matter movement. How has this affected you as an educator, and as a person, and how do you see yourself addressing systemic racism through your work as a teacher?

I address systemic racism by accepting all my students for who they are. I do, however, feel sad that we are in the classroom with them during these times, addressing their concerns, questions or needs. I am proud that one of my students Mikayla McSulla and her sister Desiree, who used their dedication, knowledge and voice to raise even more awareness that Black Lives do matter in the community. As an educator we are advocates of children no matter what their race, nationality or culture may be. I tell my students that they are tiles in a mosaic: each tile unique, beautiful with our little flaws that create the beautiful masterpiece that is Manchester.

Is there anything I haven’t asked you about that you would like to share?

You did not ask me what is my weakness as a teacher? One of my biggest weaknesses is my empathy. I put myself in my students’ shoes. I will never forget what it means to be a Language Learner.

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