PHA Director of ESL
When did you begin working at PHA and why?
I started working at PHA in August of 1999, when it was called the Somerville Charter School. I was working in a private pre-school in Boston and was looking to work with older students. PHA listed a fourth-grade position and I was intrigued by the school’s mission, so I applied. When I entered the school for my interview, I was greeted by Cathy Traniello, an administrative assistant, who made me feel so welcome and comfortable I felt like I was already a part of the community. As I walked around the building, I was impressed to see the school’s mission coming to life in the classrooms and knew almost instantly I wanted to be part of the team. Given my experience in early childhood education I did not get the fourth-grade position but was offered a first-grade spot, which I happily accepted.
What has changed and what has stayed the same since you began working at PHA?
There have been lots of changes since I started at PHA. One of the biggest changes is the size of the school. When I started, we were a K-8 school with approximately 500 students in two buildings. Now we are a K-12 school, soon to be a Pre-K-12 school, with more than 1,100 students in 4 buildings, on 3 campuses and in 2 cities-wow.
Another big change is the development of our academic program. Over the years we have continually fine-tuned the design of our program to be one that is restorative, inclusive, and innovative.
One thing that has stayed the same through the growth of our school and academic program is the tight knit community. PHA is truly like a family. Decisions are made with students at the center and programs are developed to support the learning and social emotional wellness of students, families, and staff.
Why do you continue to work at PHA?
I continue to work at PHA because I love the culturally and linguistically diverse community. Also, I appreciate the approach they take in teaching the whole child. They have truly built a close-knit community in which faculty, staff, students, and families are encouraged and supported to step out of their comfort zone to grow and learn together.
What is your favorite PHA memory?
It is so hard to pick one favorite PHA memory when my brain is filled with so many favorites that I could probably write an inspirational, heartwarming and very funny book. Here are the first few that came to mind:
- Finding a student had a pet snail living in her desk.
- During a teaching observation by the principal a student yelled, “Wait Mrs. Verdone this book is all about baseball and we are reading Roberto Clemente in Literacy. Did you plan this because it’s kinda connected?” My response, “Yes, I did” Student, “Wow, you are a really great teacher.”
- A student asking if I came over on the Mayflower, because I knew so much about the trip.
- The day the Early Childhood principal had to kiss a pig, because he lost a reading challenge with the kids.
- Seeing a former student stand up during Orientation week as a new teacher at PHA.