Adele Berardi, English Support Teacher, Southern Regional High School, Manahawkin
I am an English Support Teacher in an English course, which means there are special ed. kids mainstreamed into a regular class with minimal support from me. I did one year at Alpha School in Lakewood, and I had profoundly handicapped kids: whether they were communication handicapped, or neurologically impaired. It was really hard, and I had no faith in myself, whatsoever. But I had a great principal, a great co-teacher and great aides, and I learned a lot. Once I transitioned to Southern, you know, the more I taught, the better I got at it. I may not be the best teacher but I’m a good girl scout leader who is good with esprit de corps and that kind of thing, which is my niche at Southern. Now, after 36 years, I think of it more than just a job but as a vocation.
I am also am in charge of the Gay Straight Alliance at Southern so there’s advocating that I do for kids in that area, whether it be somebody who’s trans and didn’t want to wear a black graduation robe and wanted to wear a yellow one, or whatever the case may be. I had a vocational homeroom so kids would come in the morning, and they come to my homeroom midday before they start their afternoon, and these two kids came up to me and they’re like, “Listen, we want to start a GSA here, and we need you to be the sponsor.” I’m like, “Okay, but you’re going to Mr. Bell on your own, and you’re going to talk to him about it and just explain it to him. I don’t want to be the one talking; you have to do it.” And that’s what happened, and it was about 17 or 18 years ago. I’m funny because a lot of people come to me for definitions of things or situations or how I should handle this or that situation with GSA issues, so, I have wound up as a spokesperson for it, which is fine by me. The kids are wonderful and the world is changing, which is really good because, you know, there’s a place for everybody in this world. I really believe in that old adage, “To whom much is given, much as expected.” And what I learned for myself is that God has kind of put me in the right place. I wasn’t meant to make millions of dollars; I was meant to have an influence and impact kids, and you need to demonstrate what it means to be a good human, a good teacher, a good employee, a good friend, and I’m never afraid to ask for something for them to try to advocate for them.
– Interview by Gregory Andrus