Saudade: News from and for the Brazilian community/Notícias de e para a comunidade brasileira

Brazilian Faces: Robert Ribeiro

From left, Ana Clara, Roberto, Nilma, and Mathews Ribeiro. — Courtesy Juliana Germani

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This month’s Brazilian Face is Robert Ribeiro. I had the opportunity to meet Robert two years ago when Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School held an event for Brazilian parents. During the event, he told me he had gone to college to become a math teacher. Later on, when MVRHS English teacher Danny Charbonneau started an initiative to teach Island teachers core academic content in Portuguese to build community and empathy toward the ELL students, we invited Robert to teach a math class in Portuguese. Although math language is universal, afterward, some teachers made the comment that if Robert had been their math teacher in high school, perhaps they would have appreciated the subject a little bit more. When ACE MV was looking for a Portuguese teacher for the Conversational Brazilian Portuguese course they would offer in fall 2018, I couldn’t think of a better teacher than Robert. Robert is selfless, always invested in any platform related to education, as well as interested in how he and his family can contribute to building community.


When did you move to Martha’s Vineyard? Where are you from in Brazil?

I am from Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais. I moved to the U.S. 15 years ago. We first moved to Florida, where we had some relatives, and ultimately we ended up on the Island, where we also had relatives.


What were your first impressions of the Island? What was your first job on the Island?

I remember being cold despite that it was spring; there was still snow on the ground. As for my job, I am fortunate to have had the same job ever since I arrived on the Island. My brother-in-law worked for the Preservation Trust; he was retiring and going back to Brazil, and he helped me get a job with the Preservation Trust.


Why did you choose to move to the U.S.?

I did everything I was supposed to do in Brazil so that I could succeed. I started to work when I was 13 years old, I voluntarily served the Brazilian Armed Services, I studied hard and got into a federal university in Brazil, and even after that, I couldn’t purchase the house I wish I could have for my family. I worked in the Belo Horizonte’s Town Hall during the day, and taught math at night for students who, like me, worked all day and were trying to conclude their high school at night, and whenever I thought I had finally saved enough money for a house, or anything that could better my family’s quality of life, the prices would have quadrupled. I felt betrayed by my country. Brazil is a country with so much potential, but that is where it ends, in potential. It is as if the opportunities we seek our whole lives can only be obtained in foreign lands. And taking all of that into consideration, I decided to move with my wife and 6-month-old daughter to pursue a better and safer life.


What were some of the obstacles that you faced when you arrived?

If I had to name three, I would say language and adaptation to a new culture, the climate, and missing our families. I knew enough English. I had learned in college, as some of our professors were from England, India, and other cultures, and would teach their craft in English, not Portuguese. However, it was not the same as living in an English-speaking country. I felt like a child again.


How do you see Brazil now, especially after the election?

It is a mess. I compare it to Sodom and Gomorrah in the Bible. The corruption is rampant; there is no law, it is a no man’s land. I used to feel so much pride to be Brazilian, and I cannot say that I still have much pride left. I remember leaving Brazil thinking that next time I would be back that Brazil was going to be way better than when I was leaving. I was wrong. The left in Brazil has been in power for 13 years, and there is not a lot they can show they did. I voted for Lula for both elections, for Dilma Rousseff on the first election. I always voted left because they are socially conscious, but I could not do it this time. Brazil needs a fresh start; I do not know how that is going to happen, but I do not think that voting for the Worker’s Party once again was going to be the answer.


How has your experience been as a Portuguese teacher for ACE?

Very exciting, I am beyond grateful for the opportunity. I had missed the interactions with students and the privilege to share knowledge. I am teaching the Conversational Brazilian Portuguese and math for the HiSET. I am combining my culture with my skills, and I cannot think of a better fusion.