Teacher Stories: Margaret Salvatore, Italian Language Teacher at Old Bridge High School, Old Bridge, New Jersey
I just started working at Old Bridge High School a year ago. Prior to that I taught at Brookdale Community College. I had a funny beginning at Old Bridge because I originally got hired for elementary school. I was sort of the traveling Italian teacher who went to different elementary schools and I was just going to introduce them to the Italian language and culture. But then after about six weeks of being in it, I got a call from my boss and she told me they really needed me at the high school. The original Italian high school teacher in our district never showed up after the first or second day. The kids had a sub in there who didn’t know Italian so they were basically just sitting there for six weeks on their phones not doing anything. My supervisor called me on Friday, and on Monday I was at the high school, the new Italian teacher. And I was like, ‘Oh my God, what do I do?’ But that Monday I showed up and I just did it. I looked over the curriculum real quick. I knew from teaching at Brookdale that I had an arsenal of things to teach, but teaching high school is a different pace. It’s a whole different thing. I was up many nights very late: 12, one o’clock, sometimes I was up until five in the morning preparing for the class, but I did it.
I have to give a big shout out to Old Bridge High School because the staff, the vice principals, the French teacher, the other Italian teacher: they really just kind of took me under their wings. By Christmastime, I was in a groove. The French teacher was super nice to me and she said to me, ‘Look right now you need to just focus on getting the kids disciplined, because for six weeks, they didn’t have a teacher. You need to focus on getting them to know a classroom routine. Don’t worry about the fancy PowerPoints because, let’s face it, the kids are not going to learn from PowerPoints.’ She said, ‘Just get the kids in a group. Just let them get to know what you expect from them.’ So I did that. In the beginning, it was a bit tough with the kids, but once they knew I was there to stay and that I meant business, they changed.
I have found I have made a connection with most of the students. I’ve had kids come up to me and tell me, ‘You’re a fantastic teacher.’ That makes up for every bad day, for every kid that isn’t listening, for every freshman who didn’t want to pay attention or who threw spitballs across the room. I’m telling you, when you hear that as a teacher, you realize, yeah, I made the right choice. Yes. I definitely made the right choice.
Interview and photo by Gregory Andrus
Portraits of the Jersey Shore
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