Conversation with Dearborn STEM Academy’s Head of School

We recently sat down with Dearborn STEM Academy’s Head of School, Darlene Marcano to talk about her path as an educator, the return to hybrid learning and the importance of celebrating women all year!

Can you tell us what led you to become an educator? And what has your path been to your current role?

Over the years, I feel like my story has changed so many times. However, what I recall as my journey to becoming an educator is that I never intended to be one. I wanted to be a resource for students and to provide hands on support to them AND their families as much as I could. However, I didn’t see that descriptor as a teacher’s job until my senior year in high school at a Boston Teachers Union ceremony at which first grade teacher presented me with an award.  I had come to the US from Trinidad at a young age and was teased because of my accent and felt so alone. This teacher ate lunch with me (and I’m sure with others), made birthday cakes and taught us to appreciate every member of our community. At that moment I received this award from her, it all came rushing back to me.  I recognized the critical role that educators play and how that teacher changed the course of my life. Maybe the award was a sign of what was to come. I discovered my purpose. 

What do you miss most about being in the classroom?

I miss having close relationships with students and their families more than anything!  As a teacher, you are afforded the opportunity to speak and interact with each and every child every day. You get to find out what they are thinking, how they are feeling and have a direct impact on their lives in a way that you may not be able to as an administrator. In my current role I am responsible for all of my students and the school community and there are decisions that I must make that directly impact everyone. However, it’s that personal connection with 75-100 students each year that I miss the most!

 

After nearly a year of remote learning, how has the adjustment been to a Hybrid model? How are your students feeling about the return?

Our teachers have done a tremendous job with all of the pivots and changes that we have all asked of them.  They have operated with grace and kindness towards each other by assisting when necessary and by frequently sharing teaching resources to support hybrid learning.  However, it’s been hard on them and this crisis has taken its toll on the teaching community.  They have been stretched further than any educators that I have met in my career, and still they come to work every day giving as much as they can. or that I am thankful.

It has been a positive adjustment to have students back in the building for in-person learning. Students have direct contact with their teachers/staff and the peers whom they have missed. I have heard and felt joy in their laughter but also sense their fear as they move towards each other to embrace, only to slowly back away. Families in communities of color have been rather honest with us as to their apprehension about returning their children to school in-person and have asked for specific logistical information to put their minds at ease. I don’t blame them one bit and believe that it is our job as educators to provide them with as much opportunity to be a part of the thinking and decision-making process to acclimate their children safely back into school.

 

Walk us through a day in your life!

No day is the same, honestly! This morning was the first day of in-person hybrid for grades 9-12 which meant that we had to prepare the halls and the entrances for a warm welcome promptly at 6:30am. We bought gifts for students (hand sanitizer, stress ball, etc.), balloons for the cafeteria and all entrances, had extra masks and asked teachers to come down to the lunchroom to welcome everyone!  It was awesome.  

I walked around the building to check in with teachers and say hello to students but somehow ended up covering a class for a bit. That was one of the best parts of my day! I had an Administrative team meeting and a meeting with (BPE CFO) Ms. Arroyo about the school’s budget followed by lunch duty.  During lunch, I met with three lovely Juniors who wanted reassurance that they were on track to graduate and help navigate their current pathways situations.  This was another highlight of the day!  

After two additional afternoon meetings, I met with Ms. Almquist who is the Director of Early College and Career Pathways, a parent and a student about the student’s sequence of courses for senior year that would lead her one step closer towards graduation.  At 3:30, I took a phone meeting with a gentleman who is interested in becoming an administrator in Boston Public Schools and wanted to hear a bit about my own journey.  By 4:30, after debriefing the day with my Associate Head of School, I worked out in the Dearborn’s weight room with one of our phenomenal social workers before heading home around 6:00pm. At home, I prepare for tomorrow!

 

In honor of Women’s history month, can you tell us of a woman who has inspired you? 

My greatest inspirations are my grandmother, mother, and daughter. I would swear they are the same person. My grandmother through her own selfless actions inspired me to see past my own needs and give freely to others. My mother has inspired me to share all of the love that I have in my heart with others. Lastly, my daughter has been the greatest source of joy that I’ve ever known and there has been no greater inspiration than the three of them combined!

 

How is the Dearborn celebrating and elevating women’s voices?

The Dearborn is comprised of so many talented and exceptional women whose voices are elevated daily. We have an administrative staff that includes women who are responsible for ESL, Student Support, Pathways and Early College, Nursing and Health and the Head of School. Our student government consists mostly of young women. Our Instructional leadership team also consists of a majority of women supporting content teams as well as a majority of women supporting grade level teams. Our School Site Council and Parent School Council consists of mostly mothers, grandmothers and female family members. All of these teams, in my opinion, are the voices and the souls of the school.  We celebrate and elevate the voices through shared decision making and problem solving. We look to these teams to help guide us especially during a global pandemic that ripped through our community.

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