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News > Teacher Perspective > Mrs Alexandra Bastos de Sousa

Mrs Alexandra Bastos de Sousa

With a remarkable career that has extended across four decades, Mrs Bastos de Sousa has left an indelible impact on multiple generations of students.
Mrs Alexandra Bastos de Sousa
Mrs Alexandra Bastos de Sousa

With a remarkable career that has extended across four decades, Mrs Bastos de Sousa has left an indelible impact on multiple generations of students. Her enduring influence is evident through her consistent inclusion among the foremost invitees to alumni gatherings.

During her tenure at St. Julian's, she has assumed diverse and pivotal roles, serving as a Portuguese Teacher, Form Tutor, House Leader for Etherington-Smith, Head of the Portuguese Department, Head of the Modern Language Faculty, Development Director and Head of both Years 12 and 13. She also started the St. Julian’s Year Book for IB students with the Class of 1998.

Can you tell us about your journey to St Julian’s?

I started working at SJS on the 1st week of September 1980, straight out of Faculdade de Letras, Universidade de Lisboa, where I completed my Filologia Germânica degree. I was interviewed by the Headmaster, Mr Bull and the then-only Portuguese teacher in the Senior School, Mrs Artiaga, in June. I came in to start the Equivalência programme of Portuguese as a First Language, which did not exist before and included the teaching and learning of Portuguese Language and Literature, as well as Portuguese History. At that time, A Levels and IB were not taught at the school. I started teaching the eldest students in Year 5 Senior School. There were much fewer students then and only two forms per year. The Equivalência programme, drawn by the Ministério da Educação, was very ambitious and designed to allow students to access Portuguese Secondary Schools if they needed to. The students took the programme quite well. My first students were only 6 years younger than me. So they are now almost sixty years old. (laughs)

Is there a memory you hold dear from your time at SJS?

There are so many memories I hold dearly, funny moments in and outside class and truly interesting discussions in class, wonderful human interaction that went beyond curricular areas. I could be here talking non-stop, and we do not want that, but I can tell you about one in particular that exemplifies what a great time I had at St. Julian’s. Once my students found out about my birthday and prepared a party for the lesson after the morning break. I was coming up the stairs to my room a bit earlier than they expected, and they were not fully ready for my arrival, so one of the students pretended he had fallen down the stairs. Of course I stopped to help him, giving the others time to prepare my entrance. When we both finally went in, I was surprised with a big party for my birthday. Obviously, they were darlings, but they also wanted the lesson to last less than it should, which of course, it did, but that was OK because I always thought that work without play is no fun at all. Our relationship was based on the belief that a balance between work and play is essential for a fulfilling and enjoyable learning experience.

What makes St. Julian’s special?

What makes St. Julian’s very special is the fact that most students and teachers here have an interaction that goes beyond the usual formal student-teacher relationship. Over the years, we respected and trusted each other. It remains intriguing to observe how, with each passing year after departing from St. Julian's, students consistently returned to school. The Christmas Carols had so many alumni here to participate in this school’s tradition! Somehow students still want to come back. Many of my former students are now teachers here, both in Primary and Secondary and also in the Portuguese section. I think of St. Julian’s not only as a place for teaching and learning subjects but also as a place for growing as a person. St. Julian’s was always a wonderful place to work, both for staff and students and I hope it will remain as such. 
My children, Diogo and Vera, attended St. Julian’s from Nursery to the IB and my grandson Enzo is currently in Year 1 with Mr Harper, a former student who was not in my Portuguese class. Still, I remember very well as a student. I had a wonderful life at St.Julian’s, my children had a wonderful experience at St.Julian’s, and I hope my grandchildren have that too.

What was the most rewarding part of being a teacher?

Students. I have told more than one headmaster that I felt that my bosses were my students. I worked for them all my professional life. Their success, happiness and growth were always essential for me. I have always established the principles of respect, honesty, and trust with my students. We should all be learning from each other. As a teacher, I was demanding with their knowledge of the subject content. As a Tutor and Head of Year I was always there to help them the best I could,  but I know I learnt a lot from them in many different ways. To see students’ empathy, understanding and support towards others was also always something truly rewarding as well.

Do you think life is more difficult for students now?

Yes, indeed, I do. The school now provides a broader array of subjects and options, and the programme has expanded. While this increased diversity offers more choices, it has also introduced a challenge for students. It's not necessarily about having more work; rather, it's about having to manage a multitude of tasks, making it challenging for students to excel when attention is divided amongst numerous different pursuits and activities. Before things were calmer, potentially bordering on being perceived as boring, but it was less stressful. I felt that as a teacher as well… Somehow, presently, time is scarcer and scarcer.

What do you miss the most about St. Julian’s?

My contact with students. What I most appreciated in my professional life was being with students as a Portuguese teacher and as Head of Years 12 and 13. Of course, I also miss working with many colleagues, including those in non-teaching departments.

What would you share if you could pass on any wisdom from your career?

I mentioned this before. The best possible relationship between teachers and students (which I see as essential for a successful and enjoyable teaching and learning experience) can only be established if there is absolute mutual respect, honesty and trust. We teachers/ educators need to lead by example, students/learners need to respond with the same values, and parents need to do their part as educators at home. When all this happens, schooling works wonders. The results are amazing, and everyone is happy.
During alumni meetings, I've been truly heartened by expressions of gratitude for the honesty and openness experienced during their time here. Teachers don't have to seem perfect because nobody is. Students are incredibly clever and sharp at finding out if we are being honest. Leading by example is the wisdom I wish to impart. 
I will always be grateful to St. Julian’s for everything it gave me as a professional and as a person. THANK YOU!


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