In a 5th grade classroom at the Trotter School in Dorchester, the Boston Public Schools’ 2019 Educator of the Year is helping her last group of students build up confidence before embarking onto middle school. Ms. Chavez has been teaching in the Boston Public Schools for over twenty years and will be retiring at the end of this school year.
“Many people don’t understand that the job of teaching goes far beyond the school day,” she says. With support from two Boston Partners in Education volunteer mentors, Ms. Chavez makes sure that students who are struggling to keep pace with the rest of the class have the tools they need to succeed.
Assigned to Ms. Chavez’ classroom for his second year, Dan is helping two English Language Learners transfer the English language over to numbers and math. The other in-class mentor, Kim, has volunteered with Ms. Chavez for the past five years — in both a one-on-one and small group setting.
Even though the typical Boston Partners mentor session is one hour a week, the volunteers in Ms. Chavez’s class not only stay throughout an entire 90-minute math block, but also come in early to prepare students for tests. Ms. Chavez has found that volunteers can offer details about the students that she as the teacher did not know, and that both she and the mentors help each other better understand the students.
“We see them in different ways and help each other to build a broader picture of the students and the classroom,” she says. “They embed themselves as part of the student groups, and all of the other students in the classroom understand that the mentor is there for support. The students are able to engage in conversation more, their vocabulary has increased, and their self-confidence has been boosted.”
Despite the challenges that arise, Ms. Chavez’s charm and patience have made her classroom feel like a loving family – she jokes that she acts as the grandmother of the room. She credits her successful teaching style to being supportive – both personally and through programs like Boston Partners – but also having high demands of the students, as if they were her own children.
When she attends former students’ graduations, she says students always remember their mentor from her classroom. She wishes there were more programs across the United States where community members could volunteer within a classroom and sees mentorship as a big need in public education.
“Students need to see positive role models. The most successful schools are invited by community members to visit businesses, or churches, or libraries. A lot of times members of the community think they don’t have enough to offer, but even inviting a small group of students to see where you work will help. It’s great to have people mentor in a classroom and involving the entire community benefits everyone.”
On behalf of all Boston Partners mentors and BPS students, we congratulate Ms. Chavez on her BPS Educator of the Year Award and wish her the best of luck in her well-deserved retirement.