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#ELVS20 Sneak Peek: Meet the Student Host Who Steals the Show

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    EL Education

What Matters Most: Moving Toward More Equitable Schools, the EL Education 2020 Virtual Summit (#ELVS20), is right around the corner and we are honored to introduce Student Host, Margarida Celestino. Margarida is a twelfth-grade student at Casco Bay High School in Portland, ME, and will lead attendees through the two-day Virtual Summit. Margarida will share her personal reflections on immigrating with her family from Angola, West Africa, life and learning during the pandemic, and conversations about race at her school. We sat down with her ahead of #ELVS20 to get a sneak peek into her world.

How has the transition from in-person school to remote school been for you?

The transition from in-person to remote school has been really tough on me. I am the oldest child and the only girl which means I carry even more responsibilities at home. Both of my parents work night shifts so they usually sleep during the day. In the past, my brothers and I would be out of the house, but now my parents have to wake up to make sure that each kid is up and running. Sometimes I also have to drop my little brother off at school at the same time I’m supposed to be logged into Zoom for my own classes. Keeping a balance and staying motivated has been a real challenge for me, but I know perseverance is key for all of our success.

Having a deaf sibling, you’ve seen first hand how virtual learning can affect students with disabilities. How can teachers show up for students with disabilities?

It’s not just for students with disabilities, but also for children with any sort of language barrier. Remote learning has been hard on the whole family because we are all learning different platforms for our classes, but it’s a whole different scenario when it comes to my deaf brother. I’m witnessing him transition to the new technology with limited sign language support. He doesn’t attend an “all deaf school”, meaning that his Zoom classes are also mixed with speaking students.

"I feel like it all starts with seeing the different potentials that each student holds."

Margarida Celestino, EL Education 2020 Virtual Summit Student Host, Casco Bay High School

At school, his interpreter goes everywhere he goes, kind of like his shadow, but now she’s pinned on a Zoom call. I remember this day when there were no interpreters available for some reason and my brother had to log off the classroom. What would he do staring at a screen with no idea of what was going on? Teachers, and the school districts in general, should be in charge of these types of accommodations because we as a family have no control of whether or not my brother gets an interpreter for his class.

Also, I know that if my family didn’t speak English, it would have been a completely different experience because learning technology right now is already like learning a whole different language. Learning to manage all these Zoom calls, Google Meets and Google Hangouts has been extremely chaotic.

What has been a bright spot for you during the pandemic?

A bright spot for me during this pandemic was having more time to research and find more things that I am passionate about. I began working for the first time and having that experience was very interesting for me because I never realized how much one’s responsibility increases when they start working. This pandemic has also taught me a lot about prioritizing my own mental health, even though I enjoy staying home sometimes, I must admit that it was nice to see that I never appreciated having so much freedom when being outside.

How can teachers support the humanity and identities of their students?

I feel like it all starts with seeing the different potentials that each student holds. Students are sometimes treated like computers, they are told what to do more than they are asked how they are and that is a problem. Teachers should educate themselves more on the background of their students because when they find a common ground, that is when the teacher can best support the humanity and identity of their student.

What’s the biggest piece of advice you’d give to teachers today?

The biggest piece of advice I would give to teachers today is for them to start conversations with their students. The best teachers I’ve had so far are the ones who wanted to know about me and my life outside of school because it showed that they cared.

What are you most looking forward to as the host of the Virtual Summit?

The experience and feeling I will get from it are what I am looking forward to the most. I have never spoken in front of so many people, so I am looking forward to that. I am also looking forward to being part of this new event because it will be the first EL Virtual Summit, so it will be an interesting experience to be part of a brand new event.

You can hear more from Margarida Celestino at What Matters Most, the EL Education 2020 Virtual Summit taking place from October 22-23rd.

*Views of panelists and presenters are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of EL Education.