If you asked an Old Rochester student for their opinion of Geralyn Dias, the answer would likely be one of endurance, with fond remembrance of either a cooking class or learning in her Early Childhood Education class
Mrs. Dias, an ORR teacher of 22 years, is retiring this year, and many are sad to see her go. Dias herself is sad to leave, but all of her students are happy that she will be able to relax and enjoy herself from June 25 onward.
Preschool teachers Janet Gauvin and Shawn Sweet also lament Dias’ departure. Upon her leave, Gauvin will teach Child Development and the Early Childhood Education classes, and Sweet will be teaching full-time in the preschool along with Mrs. Gauvin.
“She has a wonderful way of connecting with people and providing support and encouragement when needed,” said Gauvin. “I will miss seeing her smile whenever she popped her head in the preschool classroom to say hello.”
Over the years, Dias has contributed much to the school’s community through a variety of classes and programs, though not all of them were for high schoolers. The preschool program, initiated by Dias, is a way of allowing high school students to work with preschool children within the high school and practice their skills from the Early Childhood class. The preschool program provides the opportunity to gain real-life experience outside of the usual classroom environment.
This year, a program was started for the preschoolers by the Early Childhood class called “If You Give a Preschooler a Book.” This program allows the preschoolers and their families to read books selected by the high school student ‘teachers’ every two weeks. The purpose of the program was to promote language development and literacy and getting away from the use of electronic devices. Reading with an adult is still the best way to practice language, focus on ideas, and spend quality time with parents.
“I believe that any time reading is encouraged, it’s helpful,” said Sweet. “The preschoolers really seemed to enjoy the idea and had fun rotating the book bags.”
The program wasn’t only assisting the children’s education, though. “It also helped the student, teachers, and parents,” Gauvin explained. “It provided opportunities for the student teachers to choose appropriate books for children ages three to five, based on their developmental levels and personal interests; and, it helped parents understand how much we, as educators, value books and recognize the importance of reading to children on a daily basis.”
Dias was also in charge of the cooking classes at ORR. Classes like Creative Cooking were already a part of the school’s curriculum, but Sports Nutrition was a class added by Dias, and it has been a huge hit with both athletes and non-athletes.
Both Dias’ mother and sister were teachers, and Dias easily fell into the title. Although she originally went to school to be a dietitian, she soon became enamored with the education field. By the time she had made her way to ORR, Dias was a full-fledged educator, and her passion for nutrition education and child development became a great asset to the school and its students.
Her favorite memory of the school is, without a doubt, her students. For her, nothing was more important than educating and bonding with her students. She often hosted guest speakers from Johnson and Wales or a guest chef from the faculty to share their experience and joy in cooking with the students. Dias enjoyed incorporating different ideas and new trends in food and nutrition into her lessons.
“I tried to incorporate as many options as I could,” Dias happily explained. “Making information relevant to students and their busy lives, talking about healthy eating habits to avoid future chronic disease, and promote overall health and well-being. Healthy eating today is practiced by many of our families so it was not a hard sell.“
Sadly, when she leaves, the cooking classes will leave with her. The funding will be allocated to another department, according to Michael Devoll, the school’s principal.
Dias plans to spend a lot of her time with her two granddaughters, and possibly come back to the school as a volunteer, as being around her students has kept her “young at heart.”
“Ms. Dias is welcome here anytime she wants!” Devoll said, adding “[She] will be greatly missed at ORR High School. She has raised her family at [ORR], and she has been a wonderful contributor to our school.”
By Grace Mastroianni