By Mariel Gousios
Mrs. Vastola, the U.S. History and Psychology teacher, has been at East for 10 years.
She’s made an impact on student’s and teachers’ lives over the decade with her kind and funny personality. However, teaching isn’t something she always knew she was going to do. In a recent interview with Mrs. Vastola, she reflected on how her passion with history began and why she loves being a teacher.
It wasn’t until late in high school that Mrs. Vastola wanted to do something in regards to history when her teachers and classmates encouraged her to pursue her interest. In the study group she and her classmates formed when attending Holy Angels, Mrs. Vastola was told that she made studying history more interesting by using it to tell stories. She said “at the time I didn’t really realize that they were encouraging me, but now that I look back I’m finding that it was a gentle push in that direction.” This serves as a great lesson for all of us at East, that our actions here can influence the choices that people will make, and we can make a lasting impression on someone just from being kind. The support that Mrs. Vastola received from her peers and teachers, along with her innate interest in history, caused her to major in it and minor in African American studies at SUNY Brockport. In graduate school she worked towards becoming a teacher so she could share her love of history with others.
In addition to loving the subjects she teaches, Mrs. Vastola also loves the social aspect of her job. She loves that she gets to work with people every day and get to know them. One way she works to get to know her students better is by having “Friday Check- Ins”. On Fridays, she asks her students questions about their weekend and interests to learn more about them. She did this in an effort to connect with her students during COVID, since she isn’t able to talk to them as much as she did prior. She shares some of the student’s answers with the rest of the class to help students get to know each other, but also asks questions that won’t be shared, so students have the opportunity to open up to her. She says she’s learned a lot from the students’ answers and appreciates when students share something with her.
Mrs. Vastola is also grateful for the other teachers in the Social Studies department who she says she goes to for help when she needs advice. Mrs. Hawk, who Mrs. Vastola co- teaches Psychology with, said, “She (Mrs. Vastola) has taught me a lot about good teaching and she kindly says she has learned a lot from me.” Additionally, students and teachers appreciate Mrs. Vastola for her comedic relief and witty personality. Along with making jokes during the interview, Mrs. Vastola makes students laugh by telling jokes during classes. Mrs. Hawk and her “joke and tease one another” while teaching, which they say students enjoy.
In- between laughing at Mrs. Vastola’s jokes, I was really struck by how kind and caring she is. Not only does she care about the school or her job, but she cares about the people around her. When asked, “Wwhat’s something your students don’t know about you that you want them to know?” she talked about how much she misses them now that school is partly online. Even when she was asked about her achievements and what she is most proud of, she talked about how proud she is to help others. She was pleased that she is able to provide for her family and show young women at East that you can be a working mother and achieve a lot. Mrs. Vastola’s warmth and kindness shown through during the interview just as it does during her classes, which is a great reminder to try to remain positive when possible and to treat others well.