Meet Mrs. Lavallee: Fourth Grade Associate Teacher


From Mrs. Lavallee: One of my favorite things to do is travel. This photo was taken at a replica of Stonehenge found in Odessa, Texas.

Mrs. Lavallee grew up in Acushnet. She attended Westfield State University in Western Massachusetts, where she earned degrees in English and Communication. In 2012, she moved to Austin, TX to earn her Masters of Fine Arts degree in fiction writing from the University of Texas. While in Austin, Mrs. Lavallee worked as a teaching assistant for introductory literature courses and also volunteered to teach creative writing in the community. After graduation, Mrs. Lavallee taught reading and language arts to a wonderful group of Austin scholars. She has returned to Massachusetts to continue teaching closer to home.

Why did you choose the Alma team?
I chose to become a part of the Alma team because upon visiting I was so impressed by Alma’s mission and culture and the way they are brought to life in each classroom. This is a very special community of teachers and scholars dedicated to giving their best every day, and I am excited to be a part of that!



What do you hope to contribute to Alma? 
I hope to contribute positivity and optimism, and to share my love of reading and writing with my students.

What is your top goal during your first year with Alma?
I have several top goals – first, to help scholars succeed; second, to assist my team in any way possible; and third, to learn as much as I can from the talented teachers around me.

What teacher made a difference in your life, and how? 
My high school English teacher made a difference in my life when she told me that my writing had an interesting voice and that I should try to further develop my writing skills. She gave me confidence to pursue my creative goals.

Why did you become involved in education?
I grew up in a family of teachers, but I did not begin my own teaching journey until I arrived at the University of Texas and began working as a teaching assistant for introductory literature courses. I loved the creativity of teaching, and enjoyed coming up with fun, creative activities to help my students grasp the material. In my last semester, I taught a community writing course, and knew at that point that teaching was the profession for me. I am grateful that every day I get to help others and give back to my community.

Where did you go to college? What did you like about your college?
I went to college in two places – Westfield State University in Westfield, Massachusetts, and the University of Texas at Austin. The thing I enjoyed most about my time in both places was the sense that I could learn anything – whether that meant taking a class in an unfamiliar subject, browsing through books at the library, or meeting someone from whom I could learn something new.

What is your favorite piece of art?

My favorite piece of art is a painting called Homesickness by Rene Magritte. I am drawn to this painting time and time again because I feel that it encapsulates a feeling more thoroughly than words ever could.

What is your favorite food?
My favorite food is absolutely pizza!

Posted in Misc

Upcoming Event: Alma Family Day of Service

Alma Family Day of Service

Saturday, January 14, 2017


Located at Gifts to Give

1 Titleist Drive

Acushnet, MA 02743

Scholars and their families will help Gifts to Give process donations and fulfill gift requests by working in the toys and games department as well as processing clothing and book donations. This event will serve as a recognition and celebration of the national day of service on January 16th.

You can register yourself and your family members online at

All are welcome!

Posted in Misc

David Eckert joins Alma del Mar Board of Trustees

David Eckert was elected to the Alma del Mar Board of Trustees during the Board’s Annual Meeting on Nov. 4.

Mr. Eckert has long supported and been involved in education, including previously serving on the national board for Let’s Get Ready Inc., a nonprofit that helps low-income high school students get into and succeed in college. Mr. Eckert also served as the initial Chair of the nonprofit’s New England Advisory Board.

“David has the right combination of expertise in organizational strategy and passion for getting outcomes for kids,” said Will Gardner, Executive Director of Alma del Mar. “We’re thrilled to welcome him to the Alma crew.”

Mr. Eckert is a retired CEO who, for 25 years, led businesses and served on many corporate boards of directors. Before his CEO roles, Mr. Eckert was a partner at Bain & Company, a business consulting firm. He was awarded an MBA from the Harvard Business School and received a bachelor’s degree from Northwestern University. Mr. Eckert has long supported education. He is Chair Emeritus of the Board of Northwestern University’s McCormick School of Engineering and Applied Science, and former co-chair of the NU Leadership Circle Boston Regional Board. For many years, he was a member of the board of the Wayland (MA) Public Schools Foundation.

David lives nearby in Rochester, MA, with his wife Jackie. They have four grown sons.

Other current Alma del Mar Board of Trustees members are: Jan Baptist (Chair), Chris Arnold, Mary Jean Blasdale, Bronwen Cunningham, Lucile Hicks, Martha Kay, Gail Fortes and Bob Unger.

About Alma del Mar:
Alma del Mar is a public charter school serving New Bedford. Our mission is to put every one of our scholars on the path to college and to challenge them to be service-minded leaders. We are achieving this mission by providing a highly demanding, highly supportive education to every scholar who walks through our doors. Alma del Mar features a longer school day, a longer school year, high expectations for all scholars, and outstanding teachers from across the country. We currently serve 320 scholars in grades K-7. In the coming years, we will expand to offer grades K-8.

Posted in Misc

Meet Mr. Rego: Kindergarten Associate Teacher

From Mr. Rego: "This is me cooking Christmas dinner. I really do like to cook for my family and friends. I was being a bit silly. I don't normally look at ribs roasts with such intensity."

From Mr. Rego: “This is me cooking Christmas dinner. I really do like to cook for my family and friends. I was being a bit silly. I don’t normally look at ribs roasts with such intensity.”

Mr. Rego grew up in Mansfield, Massachusetts with his parents and younger sister. He played percussion in the school  band from fifth grade up until he graduated from Mansfield High School in 2002. Mr. Rego attended Bridgewater State University where he studied sculpture, jewelry design, ceramics, art history, and had a minor in Asian Studies. After graduating from BSU in 2008, Mr. Rego earned his Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth where he taught entry-level studio courses as a student. He continued to teach as an adjunct professor after graduation while working with an arts and wellness program affiliated with the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health and then coordinating the Education and Outreach programs for the New Bedford Art Museum.

Why did you choose the Alma team?

I chose Alma del Mar because I have seen the school’s Expedition Night events in previous years and witnessed the results of the high expectations and hard work put in by both scholars and staff to achieve their academic goals in a serious yet caring learning environment.  

What do you hope to contribute to Alma? 

I hope to put my artistic skills to use in presenting content in an engaging way and that my love of storytelling and reading will foster a growing appreciation in the scholars as they are just learning how to read and write.

What is your top goal during your first year with Alma?

My top goal for the first year at Alma is to have all of the scholars in Kindergarten read a Level D book to me with confidence and pride.

What teacher made a difference in your life — how?

My undergradute mentor, Preston Saunders, made a huge difference in my life and attitude toward learning and teaching others. He would lead by example and never missed an opportunity to share knowledge without talking down or devaluing other’s input. He expected his students to treat the studio, our tools, and our peers with the utmost respect. Preston taught me how to take and give constructive feedback and how to actually use it to better my practice and skills. At times his expectations were daunting but never unrealistic, they just pushed me to look at myself, my ideas, and goals in a new perspective and for that I am sincerely thankful.

Why did you become involved in education?

I became interested in education when I started student teaching studio courses at UMD and found myself becoming very enthusiastic and invested in the students’ projects and ideas which would energize me in my own studio time and classes. I still get excited about others’ excitement to try new things and learn something new.

Where did you go to college? What did you like about your college?

I went to college at Bridgewater State University. I chose that school because of their smaller class sizes and direct instruction time with the professors who were active members of the local and national arts scene in their respective fields. The school also had a great community of student-run organizations that I took full advantage of to enrich my academic experience like the school newspaper, international student mentorship, the arts and literature journal, and peer tutoring.

What is your favorite book?

My favorite book is the Etymologicon:  A Circular Stroll Through the Hidden Connections of the English Language by Mark Forsyth.

What is your favorite place?

My favorite place is wherever I happen to find myself with my family but I am particularly happy when that place is an aquarium or museum.

Posted in Misc

Alma del Mar recognizes Master Teachers

Four educators at Alma del Mar were recently recognized for their mastery in teaching at the K-8 inclusive public charter school located in the North End of New Bedford.

Alma educators are designated as Master Teacher when they exhibit a strong work ethic which contributes to both tangible results today and a lasting impact into the future. Master Teachers are also successful members of our interdependent crew at Alma del Mar — they not only get great results for scholars, they also contribute to our long-term effort by helping the teachers around them to achieve at higher levels.

Alma del Mar’s Master Teachers for the 2016-2017 school year are Kyla Spindler, Joshua DaPonte, Margaret Carvalho and Jessica Summers.

Alma del Mar - Kyla SpindlerKyla Spindler joined Alma del Mar as a founding First Grade Lead Teacher in 2011. She quickly distinguished herself as a high-performing teacher whose practice deftly blended strong “no excuses” techniques with content-rich expedition work. By her second year, Ms. Spindler’s classroom stood out not only for the high academic achievement of her scholars, but for the way in which her young crew collaborated and solved problems together. Ms. Spindler is also highly regarded at Alma for her leadership in mathematics instruction. As the Math Department Chair for the past four years, Kyla has worked to design and improve our curriculum and coach teachers in math instruction. Her efforts have played a critical role in Alma scholars’ strong overall performance in math.

Alma del Mar - Joshua DaPonteJoshua DaPonte joined Alma del Mar as a founding teacher in 2011. He created a high quality general music program from the ground up, basing the program on research-based best practices in the field of music education while integrating it with the broader curriculum in every grade. Visitors to his classroom are frequently amazed at the type of musical knowledge scholars are mastering. Whether they are effectively improvising rhythms or thoughtfully composing melodies on a recorder, scholars in Mr. DaPonte’s music room learn high level content and create high quality work every day.

Mags CarvalhoMargaret (Mags) Carvalho is serving in her second year at Alma del Mar as a Fourth Grade Math Lead Teacher. From her earliest lessons as a teacher here, Ms. Carvalho has distinguished herself as a teacher who can drive scholars to think deeply and engage in high level discussions about mathematics. In addition to her strong instruction, Ms. Carvalho has taken on leadership throughout Alma. She currently serves as a Math Department Co-Chair and a member of the Curriculum Team. She also mentors and coaches teachers on curriculum and instruction.

Alma del Mar - Jessica SummersJessica Summers joined Alma del Mar in 2012 as Lead Math Teacher for Third Grade. Her scholars’ strong results on the MCAS test that first year were a testament to her strong instruction and helped to set Alma apart as a high performing school. Ms. Summers’ consistently strong instruction has already given four cohorts of Alma third graders a strong launching pad toward upper elementary mathematics. In addition, her highly structured and highly joyful classroom culture has set the tone for Alma culture beyond her classroom door.

Posted in Misc

Celebrating our opening with a Ribbon Cutting Ceremony

New Bedford Cable Network compiled a wonderful video of our Ribbon Cutting Ceremony and Reception that we held for our supporters last month. Enjoy!

Posted in Misc

The Standard-Times’ View: Alma del Mar sets high standard for charters

Standard-Times Editorial — Sept. 18, 2016

During a tour of New Bedford’s newest school last week, two members of the editorial board of The Standard-Times were struck by an astonishing fact: It was built without Massachusetts School Building Administration funds.

That was one of many astonishments discovered while visiting classrooms and interviewing the executive director of the Alma del Mar charter school.

The Nov. 8 ballot Question 2, ”Massachusetts Authorization of Additional Charter Schools and Charter School Expansion,” will ask voters whether to raise the cap on charter schools. Alma del Mar is doing so many things right, the tour has given us a prime opportunity to discuss some of the charter issues we take a position on the question, as well as give credit where it is due.

First of all, the proposal aims to raise the cap by 12 new charters or expansions per year, with preference given to lower-performing districts when more than 12 applications are submitted. Ostensibly, this would provide the benefits of charter schools — low student/teacher ratios and broad autonomies, for example — where they are most needed. At Alma del Mar, the student body hails from all points of the city, but the clusters are found in the city’s public housing and poorest neighborhoods, a direct reflection of a door-to-door recruitment strategy, according to Executive Director Will Gardner. Students in the K-7 school (eighth grade will be filled come next academic year) show about the same rates — some higher, some lower — of English Language Learners, non-English as first language, free and reduced lunch, high needs, disabilities and low income as found across the New Bedford Public Schools District. There are no guarantees that applicants under the expanded cap would operate their enrollment lotteries as virtuously as Alma del Mar.

On the other side of the question, district schools regularly complain that the funding system takes resources away from the district. The Legislature’s inability or reluctance to support communities, especially most-challenged communities such as New Bedford, exacerbates this dynamic.

What is remarkable about Alma del Mar, is that, apart from its building a brand-new building without MSBA funds and opening it to students a mere 11 months after breaking ground, the school is encouraging residents to stay in New Bedford. Mr. Gardner cites examples of parents passing up opportunities to move to neighboring suburbs in order to allow their children to graduate from Alma del Mar. This is good for everyone in the city.

Similarly, the school’s stewardship of those district funds is admirable. There are no smartboards or other technological “bells and whistles” in the classrooms, but the creativity and innovation of teachers and other staff assure quality opportunities to learn. Furthermore, the regular sharing of best practices with district teachers in a positive and cooperative relationship lives up to the ideals of the charter system. Perhaps most importantly, the order, respect and scholarship inculcated in every classroom and in every student will ripple through the community for years to come. At Alma del Mar, residents and city officials alike can take solace that those precious district dollars are spent wisely.

Alma del Mar is a welcoming school, and it takes no more than 10 minutes visiting a first-grade classroom to observe 6-year-olds demonstrating critical thinking and growth in a disciplined, respectful and nurturing environment. Understanding that the high level of ELL students soon become former ELL students delivers on a charter’s highest promises.

New Bedford’s district schools are led by a talented, capable and driven leader in Pia Durkin, and not all charters are created equally, so our deliberation on the Question 2 are not simple.

But if all charter schools could deliver as Alma del Mar has, our decision might be.

Posted in Misc

Thinking outside the box at Alma

Alma scholars learned about working as a crew in Physical Education this week, or so we thought.

On Wednesday our PE teachers had classes participating in an activity known as The Mat Team Challenge. It goes like this: Scholars are divided into groups of four and are given two mats. Each group starts at one end of the gym and, without touching the floor, move to the other side of the gym and back.

MosFile_000 (1)t groups chose to squeeze together on one mat, turn around, grab the other mat, lug it over their shoulders and drop it on the floor in front of them, then repeat.

But one group from Salem State tried something a little different: They attached the two mats (using the velcro at either end) to create one long surface, huddled down on one end of the mat together while one friend grabbed hold of the mat and together, they rolled forward. They had created their own mode of transportation. It was like watching a hamster on a wheel, only these hamsters were Alma scholars and their wheel was moving them forward, to the finish line.

At Alma, we don’t give scholars the answers. Our mission is to give our scholars the tools they need to get the job done, and then we step back to let them do the heavy lifting, the real thinking, the problem solving. It’s this practice that turns our scholars into innovators. They are capable of thinking outside the box or, in this situation, the mat.

Posted in Misc

In the News: Alma del Mar opens in new building in New Bedford North End

Alma del Mar opens in new building in New Bedford North End

Kindergarten-4th graders read a book while sitting in the gymnasium as they prepare for morning routine on the first day of school at the Alma del Mar's new school on Belleville Avenue in the north end of New Bedford. PETER PEREIRA/THE STANDARD-TIMES/SCMG

Kindergarten-4th graders read a book while sitting in the gymnasium as they prepare for morning routine on the first day of school at the Alma del Mar’s new school on Belleville Avenue in the north end of New Bedford. PETER PEREIRA/THE STANDARD-TIMES/SCMG

By Sandy Quadros Bowles

Updated Aug 22, 2016 at 3:46 PM

NEW BEDFORD — Summer ended for Alma del Mar Charter School students Monday as they walked through the doors and into a new chapter in school history.

The new school year began in a new school at 515 Belleville Ave. The 43,000 square foot building will allow the school to expand future enrollment into eighth grade and to serve 360 children. This year, the school has 320 students in grades K-7.


The school replaces the previous location at the former Ottiwell School at 26 Madeira Ave. The old school, located adjacent to the new one, will be demolished to provide playing fields for students and neighborhood children and to add space for the Feast of the Blessed Sacrament.


Students entered the building in lines at the school’s front and back entrances, where they were greeted with handshakes and personal welcomes from executive director Will Gardner and director of curriculum and instruction Elizabeth Leiwant.


The new building earned high grades from parents waiting early for the doors to open and their children to enter the building.


“I feel great,’’ said Roselyn Amaro, the mother of a third grader and a seventh grader. “It’s a lot bigger.”


Maria Amaro, whose son attends sixth grade, said she appreciates that the school is “more strict’’ and that students wear uniforms.


“I’m in love with the school,’’ said Erin Peixoto, who has children in the second and fifth grades. “To me, it’s a very calm feeling, because I know they’re safe.’’


Early in the school day, students in grades K-4 attend “morning routine,’’ where they have a few minutes of quiet reading to set the tone for the day and to shake off any nerves or distractions.


Gardner told the students Monday that with the “excitement and privilege of getting to use a new school building’’ comes responsibility.


Following his lead, the students recited a pledge. “I promise to take good care of our new school building. This is our school.’’


Gardner said the new building was a credit to the hard work of students and staff. The institution may have changed but the school’s goal to put students “on the path to college and challenge them to become service-based leaders’’ remains.

“We get right into learning on day one,’’ he said. “This is still Alma. We have the same expectations, despite the excitement.’’

This story appeared in the August 23, 2016 edition of the New Bedford Standard-Times.
Posted in Misc

Meet Ms. Silva: Second Grade Lead Teacher

Ms. Silva poses with her daughter after her Cheer Team won 1st place.

Ms. Silva poses with her daughter after her Cheer Team won 1st place.

Ms. Silva was born and raised in New Bedford. She went to UMass Amherst for both undergraduate and graduate school. Ms. Silva holds a Bachelors in Psychology/Education and a Masters Degree in Education with a concentration in Early Childhood Education. She currently lives in New Bedford with her 7 year old daughter.

Why did you choose the Alma team?  

I chose the Alma team because Alma is a great school. The teachers are really dedicated to the students and are really rooting for their success. The Alma team is also extremely supportive of each other and I am excited to join the team this year. 

What do you hope to contribute to Alma? 

I want to show the students that regardless of their background, they can succeed. I am a New Bedford native, and have a similar background to many of the scholars. I am hoping the scholars can see me as an example of someone from New Bedford, who went off to college, graduated and came back to help out in our community.

What is your top goal during your first year with Alma?

My goal for my first year with Alma is for my scholars to show great progress throughout the year and to have a great year.

What teacher made a difference in your life — how?

The teacher that made a difference in my life was my high school Science teacher Ms. McTighe. She was always very supportive and pushed me to do the best I could. Even after I completed her class, we were able to maintain a great relationship that lasted long after I graduated high school and college.

Why did you become involved in education?

I have always wanted to become a teacher. I love teaching and watching scholars learn. I love the excitement and sense of pride that they have when they feel they are accomplishing. 

Where did you go to college? What did you like about your college?

I went to UMass. What I liked most about my college was how it was the size of a small city. There were people from various backgrounds. Not only did I learn a lot from my classes, but I also learned a lot from all the people I met.

What is your favorite place?

My favorite place is St. Thomas, USVI.

What is your favorite book?

My favorite children’s book is A Bad Case of Stripes By David Shannon

Posted in Alma Profiles

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