Dream Big Dreams, by Pete Souza
Terry in his office.
Image above Ms. Wasson's classroom door
We have 8 copies of this book.
Come check one out today!
Da Vinci Staff Spotlight!
Terry Martins, Head Custodian
How long have you worked at da Vinci? I’ve worked for PPS for 28 years and been at da Vinci for 10. I am hoping to retire from PPS when I reach 30 years and then open my own janitorial service with my son. We already have a name, Fresh Finish Cleaning Service.
What’s your favorite part of your job? Seeing the kids every morning. They make my day!
What’s the book you’re recommending? Dream Big Dreams by Pete Souza. Pete Souza was the official White House photographer when Obama was President. This is the young adult version of Souza’s book, Obama: An Intimate Portrait. There are a lot of great photographs in Dream Big Dreams, but my favorites are of him with little kids and young people. He’s a family guy. There’s a lot of truth in this book. I have lots of pictures of Obama in my office downstairs (the boiler room) at da Vinci. Obama likes to have fun and you can see it in these photographs.
Is there a special place you enjoy visiting in Portland or Oregon? I love the beach - Lincoln City. I would live there if I could. I just like to sit and watch the water and the waves.
Did you grow up in Portland? I graduated from Grant High School in 1983, but I am originally from Kosciusko, Mississippi, a couple of hours from Jackson, Mississippi, the same town Oprah Winfrey was born.
When you’re not working what are you doing? I have another job besides this one. When I get off work here I go to work at ABM and work until about 10:30. When I am not working at either job I like to sleep, rest, have naptime! On the weekends I hang out with my wife and play with my 5 grandkids. There is a five-year-old, a nine-year-old and three, three-year-olds. They’re at our house a lot. It’s a big group when they’re all together.
How do you stay organized? I take a lot of notes. I have to write things down. I make a list of things I need to do for the day. That’s how I get things done.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received? If there is something you really want to do - go for it. Don’t let someone tell you can’t do something you think you can do. Goals! Set goals and do things to work toward those goals. Also, find a job you like and do it.
Interviewed by S. Robertson, Jan. 2020
Daniel Twiss, 6th-8th Health & 8th Grade Math
What’s the best part of your job? I like how teaching feels like I’m creating. I also like that I’m interacting with funny people. Middle-schoolers are funny!
What book are you recommending and why? The Poet X by Elizabeth Acevedo
I’m a real sucker for coming-of-age stories. I love it when a character learns to understand themselves better through an art form. The main character in the book learns about herself through her writing. It’s beautiful when a student finds their thing and it helps them navigate the world and their life. It’s like discovering your superpower through the arts. I feel like students at our school do this all the time.
The main character in The Poet X, Xiamora, is super strong. She has to be and chooses to be because people are bothering her at school. Her mother is really tough on her too. Xiamora writes in her journal every day and eventually we see her share her poetry. She discovers how to balance being strong with being herself. Another reason I liked this book was because it dealt with religion and since I grew up in a religious home, it resonated with me. I love how the author of this story dealt with the topic of religion.
Did reading the book motivate you to research anything about the book?
I looked up information about Elizabeth Acevado, the author, because I was curious about her. I found out she’s an amazing, nationally recognized slam poet. I also looked up information about the Dominican culture and the Dominican Republic and people who immigrated from there. Also, the book inspired me to write some poetry… even though I haven’t written any yet.
Anything else you want to say about The Poet X? The book is beautifully written. I like how the author uses form. She uses poetic form to repeat things or do different takes on the same event. Even though it’s written in verse it reads fluently and easily. The story pulls you right in. It’s a super fun read. For example, the author references Emily Dickinson and Kayne West in the same poem.
What book did you read when you were a teen where you saw someone like you? Chaim Potok’s two books, “The Chosen” and “My Name is Asher Lev.” These books have similar plot lines to each other and to The Poet X because they are a coming of age story where the main character discovers themselves either through the academic world or through the arts. I feel like I had a similar journey where I discovered myself through reading and academic pursuits when I was a teen.
What book did you read when you were a kid or teen that you said, “this reading thing is pretty great!” I really liked the Redwall books by Brian Jaques. I remember really liking mysteries. I think the first Harry Potter book was released when I was in 5th or 6th grade. So I grew up as the Harry Potter books came out each year. That was pretty exciting.
How do you stay organized? My Google Drive is very organized and I’m very proud of it! I organize folders by what I use the most - I number folders so the most used goes to the top of my google drive. I also get reminders on my phone about things I need to do on my calendar.
What’d you have for breakfast this morning? Two eggs, a piece of toast and a ⅓ of an avocado. What happens if you don’t eat breakfast? I’m a raging monster. I yell at people. I lose my temper very quickly. I know my body. I have to eat. I can’t skip meals or I get grouchy.
Interviewed by S. Robertson, Nov. 2019
Shannon Wasson, 7th & 8th grade Language Arts
What’s the best part of your job?
Just being with the kids!
What’s the book you’re recommending? Internment by Samira Ahmed
I picked this book originally because of the cover, of what it says on her hat. It says “Resist.” I’ve been trying to include books with a lot more social justice topics into my “reading diet.” While I was reading the book it made me more aware of my own biases -- biases that I didn’t know I had about “outsiders.” I realized, instead of relying on assumptions I need to always take the time to learn more of the story behind a person. I loved Ahmed’s first book, Love, Hate, and Other Filters but I loved this one even more.
What book did you read when you were a kid where you saw someone like you?
The author who was the most influential on me when I was growing up was Judy Blume, in particular her book Tiger Eyes because the main character’s parents were going through a divorce and my parents were going through a divorce. I felt like the words between the pages of my favorite books' were written just for me. Books and the characters in them were my companions: they never let me down, I learned from their triumphs and their mistakes, and they helped me to feel less alone in the world. It was because of books that I started to journal and eventually write my own stories. It is because of reading and writing that I survived my parents' divorce, adolescence, and became a teacher.
What book did you read when you were a teen that you said, “This reading thing is pretty great!”
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee. I read this book for the first time when I was going into 7th grade. It just blew my socks off for a number of reasons. One, because the father figure in the book was such a great father figure that I didn’t have that I wanted really badly. I try to read it once a year or so to get different perspectives of the book at different ages. The scene painted above my classroom door is the courtroom scene from this book.
You have a lot of stuff in your room. How do you keep it all organized?
Color systems! Organize things by color.
What is a place you enjoy visiting in Portland (or other parts of the universe)?
I bought the book about all the hidden staircase walking around Portland and found it enjoyable but very hard to do. Incredible views once you got up to the top and interesting nooks and crannies I’ve never seen before. I also love going to Forest Park.
Do you have a special way your family likes to celebrate a holiday or being together?
Mother’s Day for me is always really special. My mom’s an only child and I’m an only child. So Mother’s Day has become an important day for mom and me to catch up. We get pedicures, eat good food, maybe see a movie.
Speaking of your mom, I see her at school a lot. How often is she here?
My mom, Nona, is here at least once a week. She’s been volunteering in my classroom for as long as I’ve been here which has been 20 years. By the way, she reads everything I put in front of her.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
Nona has always told me, You’re okay just the way you are!
Interviewed by Susan Robertson, Oct. 2019
Nicole Accardi, Drama Teacher
What’s a favorite part of your job at da Vinci?
The best part of my job is my students. I love building relationships between myself and my students and helping my students build relationships with each other....building an ensemble really.
What’s the book you’re recommending?
It’s Trevor Noah: Born A Crime I couldn’t put it down because his life experiences were so incredibly different than my own and yet at the same time I felt like I could really empathize with him and the things that he went through because he was writing from such a truthful place. It inspired me to do some scene work from Athol Fugard’s plays for this coming quarter. One of the plays, “My Children! My Africa!” takes place in South Africa like Trevor Noah’s book (and childhood). Noah was writing about Apartheid from such an accessible place. I plan on encouraging students to read his book in partnership to the play “My Children! My Africa!”
Do you want to add anything more about the book or author?
I have such a celebrity crush on Trevor Noah from his TV show but after reading the book even more so. What a phenomenal human being. Oh my gosh I love him!
What book did you read when you were a kid or teen that you said, “This reading thing is pretty great!”
My Ah-ha reading book was “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelo because of the female experience and a kinship of both of us having experienced abuse. It was a very healing book for me.
Being a drama teacher looks like it takes a lot of organization. How do you stay organized? Do you have any tips?
I use a planner! I write down all the things I need to get done and I also write To-Do lists.I have a pad of paper that says “To-Do” that I check daily and I add to it when new things come up.
Do you have a favorite holiday or a special way your family likes to celebrate a holiday or being together?
Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. I love cooking with my sister. We make homemade pasta.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
...to be grateful...
Interviewed by Susan Robertson, Sept. 2019