Project ALERTA

at the University of Massachusetts Boston


ALERTA students and teachers

Exemplary Boston Public School teachers with experience teaching English Language Learners provide all of the direct academic instruction in Project ALERTA. Many of these teachers are Latino and were English Language Learners themselves. Almost all of them have been fixtures in their respective schools for many years, making them an important resource for and conduit to our parent population.

Project ALERTA carefully selects teachers who are passionate about creating lessons that address the whole child and emphasize creativity for our young learners. All of our teachers have been trained to create thematic, project-based, interdisciplinary curriculum, which provides students with multiple access points to the material. This marriage of the arts, humanities, sciences, and traditional academic disciplines is important for the students to develop a love of learning.

Our teachers are also focused on allowing children to have a role in planning the curriculum offered. ALERTA students choose the projects they create and the books they read. Often times, students are consulted by their teachers to help them choose the theme for the year, thus allowing them to feel agency in their learning.

During an ALERTA teacher focus group in Fall '09, teachers talked about how ALERTA gives them the opportunity to spend more time with students and teach interesting and challenging subjects and skills they would not have time to cover during the regular school day. As one teacher stated: “I think the ALERTA teachers –you choose to teach there, and therefore, you just love to be there, you love to be a part of that “familia” –that you will always be involved with, and the students too.”

Without a doubt, ALERTA teachers work tirelessly as enthusiastic and innovative educators capable of achieving a high level of commitment among their ALERTA students and willing to go the extra mile for them. The teachers always show extreme sensitivity to ALERTA students’ unique needs as they gently encourage and challenge them to meet increasingly higher expectations.


O'Donnell Elementary School

Gloria Austrich
Gloria was born in Habana, Cuba and emigrated to the United States in 1966 through the Freedom Flights program, a political asylum program for Cuban emigres. Bilingual education did not exist at the time, so her parents "home-schooled" her while she learned English in the Cambridge Public Schools and then in the Boston Public Schools from which she graduated (Girls’ Latin School). Gloria obtained a bachelors degree in biology and psychology from Boston University, a masters in administration and Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) from Johnson State College in Vermont, a masters in special education from Eastern Nazarene College and a CAGS in school psychology from UMass Boston. Gloria has taught in different capacities in regular education and special education as a bilingual teacher in Boston Public Schools for 15 years and has been a bilingual school psychologist for BPS for 13 years. She has been involved with the ALERTA program for 7 years now. She really enjoys the classroom environment because she loves to work directly with the students and be part of their intellectual and personal growth. As an exiled immigrant, she especially believes in the importance of a solid foundation in education and exposure to limitless positive experiences that will allow students to pursue their dreams. She also believes in the empowerment of any ethnic group through education. In her spare time, Gloria loves to create through cooking and enjoys her surroundings through cycling. She also enjoys the company of her two older sons and husband.

José Sánchez

JoseJosé Rafael Sánchez, born in San Juan, Puerto Rico, came from a large family of five brothers.  His father was a retired veteran, thus his family has loved the political environment of the island, always fighting for lost causes. José enjoys his job as a Bilingual Speech-language Pathologist working with students in Boston Public Schools, some of them with special disabilities.  He joined the ALERTA staff in 2003 during the summer.  It was such an amazing experience working with a different student population that he fell in love immediately with the program.  Since then, he has been an ALERTA teacher every year in the after-school as well as the summer programs at UMass Boston. José admires the fact that ALERTA provides the students and teachers with unique opportunities for hands-on activities and a student-centered curriculum which opens up a whole new world for students. He loves to engage his students in creative activities even in math. José has been a part of a theater company “Escena Latina Teatro,” since 1992.  It is the only theater company in Boston that presents Spanish performances. He has served as director, production assistant, and, more recently, as an actor.  During his free time, José loves to travel.

ALERTA participant:

"I loved if one student had trouble doing something or needed help there was always someone there- a teacher or a student."