Emily Rivito ’21 spent her winter break revisiting high school, from phys ed to physics, this time on the assigning end of homework. When an administrator at her alma mater put out a call for substitute teachers, Rivito stepped up.
She learned much as a stand-in for teachers in middle- and high-school, across a range of subjects; in particular she gained first-hand understanding of the challenges younger students face during the pandemic. A sociology major, Rivito wants to work in that field for a few years after Hamilton, then enroll in graduate school.
To Rivito, at least as important as the work experience was giving back to her school, Christian Brothers Academy in suburban Syracuse, N.Y., and to an administrator there — Matthew Keough ’04, former Christian Brothers principal and current president. Keough wrote Rivito a letter of recommendation when she applied to Hamilton, her first-choice college, and that support still means a lot to Rivito.
Keough’s school, like others across New York, faces a shortage of substitute teachers, but he was determined to provide in-person learning amidst the pandemic. Looking to fill the gap, Keough thought of his recent alumni who are in college and could perhaps help out during winter break or while they are at home studying remotely. He emailed members of three recent graduating classes and was glad to see Rivito among the respondents.
“She was very excited to come in and help out. She was a tremendous student when she was here and a tremendous person,” Keough said. “So when I saw her email come across, we got up and running, put her through a little training with our assistant principal of academics, and she’s one of the reasons we’ve been able to stay open for in-person education.”
Rivito was a little nervous at first, wondering whether the students would take her seriously and if she would remember all the COVID-19 protocols, like sanitizing all the desks after each class period. But she quickly settled in, impressed by the maturity of the high schoolers and their diligence in observing the COVID rules.
She went into the experience knowing she wasn’t interested in becoming a classroom teacher and came out feeling the same. Working in a school, building one-on-one relationships with students, however, is a possibility. “I have been interested in pursuing social work after Hamilton, and one of the places that I’ve been thinking about working as a social worker would be in schools, maybe as a guidance counselor or a school social worker,” Rivito said. “So the opportunity to see firsthand how a school was experiencing COVID. I think, gives me some good insight.”