As Malden High starts a new school year, it has had the pleasure of welcoming a new member to the English department, Debora Sousa. Sousa will be teaching English 9, 10, and 12 Honors classes this year.
Sousa is an alumna here at Malden High School. She lived in Somerville for “a couple years” and moved to Malden where she spent most of her life. Sousa expressed that one of her favorite things about living in Malden is “the ability to feel like you always have support wherever you go.”
Sousa graduated from Merrimack College where she majored in education and minored in English. Sousa said that she knew teaching was “her calling,” after taking part in a senior-internship program where “all the seniors had the decision to go work somewhere that they planned on going to college for.” She worked at an after school program alongside little kids, where she would “help them with their homework and listen to their lives.” Sousa stated that it was not until she started working at Somerville High School that she realized she “wanted to be with high schoolers.”
Prior to teaching in Malden, Sousa was teaching a program called The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) where she was “certifying juniors at a vocational school.” OSHA is a program that ensures that wherever you are working depending on the trade, you have the right to a safe workplace. She also taught career cruising for the freshmen at the vocational school where she helped them “explore different jobs and figure out what their interests [were] so they could make those decisions and hopefully pick a trade for the rest of the 3 years that they were going to be there.”
Pasquale DiBenedetto, English teacher and mentor, has known Sousa ever since she was in high school, as she was his former student. DiBenedetto stated that ever since he has known her, “[he has] felt that she is a very caring and kind person,” and whenever she sets her mind to something she's always been “very successful.”
Dibenedetto worked with Sousa during the 2020 to 2021 remote learning school year as she was his student teacher for his grades 11 and 12 English classes that he taught alongside English teacher Lucia Musilli.
Musilli stated that the first time she met Sousa was in a Google Meet, and she seemed like a “personable-type of individual,” and was a “great person to have around.”
Adding someone like Sousa into the English department “is important.” Musilli expressed that Sousa adds “a layer that [Malden High has not] really had before because [they] do not have anyone in the department that was a Malden High School student in recent years.”
Yahaira Marquez, head of the English department and English teacher, was a part of the hiring process and explained that what stood out to her about Sousa was her “open mind and willingness to learn.”
Marquez stated that “being willing to get feedback, to apply suggestions, wanting to grow, wanting to learn and continuing to enhance how she is” were the qualities that jumped out while interviewing and speaking with Sousa.
Common words used to describe Sousa were “welcoming, warm and kind.” Marquez commented that she noticed Sousa’s students feel welcomed in her classroom as she “intently likes to listen in a way that she is going to apply [...] she is very attentive which will allow her to meaningfully apply it in a way that'll help her and the students in her classroom.”
DiBenedetto also commented that Sousa is “a very dedicated teacher who always puts her students first.” He noticed that she makes her students feel “very comfortable, she puts them at ease, and she always tries to create a safe space and [he] honestly thinks that's what students need most.”
One of the biggest things that stood out to DiBenedetto is that “none of the students hesitated to ask her for help, because they felt very safe and comfortable with her.”
Sousa hopes to create a safe space in her classroom where students feel comfortable to approach her and speak to her about what they may have going on in their life. She commented that she understands that it is “really hard at this age,” since “your mind is everywhere, your hormones are everywhere, so it's a period of so much evolving and if you don't have the right people it can be hard.”
She believes that the most important thing as a teacher is to “create the boundary that, yes, I’m your teacher at the end of the day, but I'm also here for you, and I want to support you and I want to help you and I want to listen.”
As the year goes on, Sousa makes it clear her biggest goals as a teacher at Malden High School is to make sure she is doing the best that she can so that her students feel “inspired, motivated and passionate to live their lives.”