Community Feature: Debra Polselli - CS Alliance

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Community Feature: Debra Polselli

Meet the April Community Member Ms. Debra Polselli!


Please tell us about yourself.

I have worked for the Diocese of Fall River for over 40 years. I have taught and continue to teach religious education  in my parish of St. Anthony of Padua since I was a college student. I teach the First Communion Program and I have been the coordinator of The First Communion Program for over 25 years. It was actually while teaching religious education classes that I was really able to embrace my Catholic faith in a new and very personal way. As I taught my students so I too learned! I have also been a part of the music ministry at St. Anthony of Padua for over 30 years and continue to do that. I taught at the St.Patrick’s School in Fall River for two years when I graduated from college in 1976. I taught Kindergarten and Grade two. The school closed in the summer of 1978. I did some tutoring at St. Stanislaus School. In January of 1981, I began teaching at The Espirito Santo School and I have happily been there ever since. I teach First Grade. I also direct the school choir along with another teacher Christine Mello and I am the coordinator of our Human Development program.

Describe your school.

I love teaching at ESS. It’s truly has a family atmosphere. I feel that we really try to live our school mission which we recite daily. As educators, we do try to educate the whole child morally, spiritually and intellectually. I feel that we do this in a caring Christian environment. We do try to instill in our students a strong work ethic and we try to model this for them through our own daily work. We emphasize the importance of having a lifelong commitment to service through the various activities we take part in throughout the year to help those who are less fortunate as well as other causes which we contribute to.  We also try to preserve the Portuguese heritage and culture of our school and parish. We have Portuguese classes from Kindergarten through Grade Eight and participate in the various portuguese traditions of our parish. The families are wonderful as well as the students. I find our families so generous in donating to the many causes in which we participate. I am also impressed and inspired by the strong faith which many of our families possess. My colleagues are very caring and supportive. They are always willing to lend a helping hand and offer advice when asked. They are like a second family. I can honestly say that I don’t mind going to work each day because of all who are there  and because of my job.

What drew you to working at a Catholic school?

I attended a Catholic elementary school- Sacred Heart School in Fall River from Kindergarten through Grade Eight. But as I mentioned earlier, when I began teaching religious education classes my eyes were opened to all that our Catholic faith has to offer. That, more than anything else,  drew me to have a desire to teach in a Catholic School. My school and position provides a wonderful opportunity for me to share my faith which is very important to me. It’s so wonderful that we can incorporate our faith into every subject as well as every experience that happens throughout the day.

What is your favorite part about teaching? What are your greatest rewards?

I really love the grade level that I teach. First Graders have a wonderful zest and enthusiasm for learning which is contagious! I really love teaching reading and I always see so much growth in students from the beginning of the year to the end of the school year. That is a wonderful reward! I also love teaching religion which enables me to share my faith and teach the Catholic beliefs. The students are so open to their faith at this age and their desire to share it.

In your experience, what do Catholic schools do best? What does Espirito Santo do best?

I feel that Catholic Schools offer students a wonderful academic and spiritual education. Catholic Schools provide a strong foundation and the building blocks to help our students become wonderful, faith-filled citizens who will continue to serve in their communities and in their parishes. I have seen many students pass through our doors and go on in their lives to do just that! Our school helps this to happen by providing a faith-filled atmosphere through daily prayer,monthly liturgies and community service. Because of the care exhibited by the staff towards students and towards each other, I feel that our school offers a safe, nurturing environment to help our students succeed academically and spiritually.

From the Principal:

Ms. Polselli has been with Espirito Santo School since the late 1970’s in 1st grade. With her many years experience, she has been a valuable member of the faculty. With her guidance, the school has continued to evolve and grow. Within her classroom, she is always evolving her teaching, finding ways to reach each individual student. She is also the co-director of our school choir, and is a DRE at her home parish of St. Anthony’s of Padua in Fall River. Her dedication to the profession is unmatched, and we are blessed to have her at Espirito Santo School. Thank you Debra for your many years of dedication to God’s children!

– Andrew Raposo


From the Espirito Santo Community

Debra Polselli is a person who any principal would be thrilled to have on their faculty. Her teacher career began about 42 years at the former St. Patrick’s school, when she taught Kindergarten and Grade 2. When St. Patrick’s school closed, she was hired at Espirito Santo Parochial School to fill in for the first grade teacher who was on maternity leave. She has made this Grade 1 classroom a home and hub of learning ever since. Ms. Polselli has taught two generations of students with loving kindness and great attention to detail. She has merged old school tried and true methods with up-to-date advances to prepare her students for the future.”

At Espirito Santo, along with her teaching duties, she acts as Teacher-in-charge, mentor to new faculty, coordinator of our Human Development Program, and coordinates our Lenten collection for the Diocesan Food Kitchen. Ms. Polselli has organized our “Gift of Love” program during Advent so that the whole school may participate in giving to those in need. People Incorporated & Marie’s Place are among the recipients of this community outreach. Perhaps Ms. Polselli is best known for her creation of the school’s choir. The choir, composed of students from grades three to eight provides music for all church masses and services during the school year. Our choir also visits adult day care and nursing homes twice a year to afford our students an opportunity for community service and to entertain those audiences with songs and dance. The Portuguese day care clients enjoy hearing and singing along in their native language with the students. Ms. Polselli works as an aide with adult day care clients in the summer and does sing along with them. The school choir has also performed at the LaSalette Shrine during the Advent season and was asked to provide music for the televised Catholic Schools Week mass filmed at Bishop Stang High School.”

Ms. Polselli is well known around the school for her annual Thanksgiving play. Her 1st grade students entertain parents and other students with the story of the 1st Thanksgiving and songs. Students wear costumes and use props that many parents recognize form their day on stage. Ms. Polselli has led her class on many field trips over the year and have served on many diocesan committees and attended many conventions. For many years, Ms. Polselli taught cooking to students from our extended care program, and tutors three days a week to reinforce her lessons.”

Outside of school, she is equally dedicated to sharing her faith with others. Debra is an active parishioner of St. Anthony of Padua parish in Fall River and a recipient of the Marian Medal. She has coordinated the 1st Communion program for many years. She has worked with many parish volunteer teachers to provide an excellent course of study for 1st and 2nd grade students. She provides musical accompaniment with her guitar and teachers music to the 1st Communion Mass.”

Ms. Polselli comes from a large family, which has remained close. Her family belongs to the Sons of Italy to continue their family tradition. She is a provider of respite care of her niece and supports Community Autism Resources, working at their walkathon and attending fundraising dinners.”

Simply put, Debra Polselli is a humble person, who shows kindness and fairness to others. She has encouraged many by her faith-filled example. With all being said, she is well deserving to be honored and recognized for everything she has done for the children of the Diocese of Fall River. Bravo Ms. Polselli!”

– Christine Mello,

To learn more about Espirito Santo Parochial School visit their website or find them on Facebook.


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