When Southwood Middle students went back to school on Aug. 20, they found Magda Pereira in the principal’s office instead of Deborah Leal. Leal was re assigned to take over Hammocks Middle School in West Kendall.
“I got appointed to Southwood middle in mid-July,” Pereira said.
From that day, she eagerly prepared for the first day of school.
Before moving to Southwood, Pereira was principal at Irving and Beatrice Peskoe K-8 Center in Leisure City. During her time there, she shepherded the school’s transition into a K-8 center. She also brought up the school’s grade from a D to an A— all in a year’s time.
“It was a district targeted school,” she said. “I held intervention groups. I was always around the students and making a difference in the lives of the student.”
For Pereira, not only is Southwood closer to home but she believes it’s an amazing school.
“I’m honored and privileged to join the faculty and staff here,” she said. “They’ve received their 12th-consecutive A (grade). We’re extremely happy.”
Pereira made her start as a secondary teacher in language arts. She was the assistant principal at Coral Reef for six years so arts magnet schools are dear to her heart.
This year, Southwood has a theme — Just Reach. Pereira said they chose the theme because of the Olympics.
“Every student has a dream,” she said.
“Our goal is to make sure they reach it and give them the support necessary to be successful. With our support and their relentless efforts, they can reach their dreams.”
She vows to help by monitoring the student’s academics to catch anyone who stumbles.
“These are our superstars, so we can push them so they can dream and put everything on the line so they can be successful,” Pereira said.
She said the transition from elementary to middle school is hard not only for the students but for parents. So she tries to ease that transition by making sure she communicates with parents and by having an open door policy.
“We will ensure that their children are being supported,” she said. “That softens the transition, making sure the parents are aware of what happens.” Even though the school has just received its 12th A grade, Pereira isn’t sitting back and enjoying the moment.“We’re always trying to build new programs in our schools. This year we’re doing a partnership; it’s a pilot program. We’re partnering with Deering Estate.” The pilot program is called Nurturing Environmental Stewards for Today and Tomorrow or NESTT. Students will listen in lectures on campus and then take field trips to the Deering Estate at Cutler for hands-on learning. Perrine Elementary has run the program and now it is growing to include Southwood. “The students, when they leave fifth grade, can continue this program that is dear to their heart,” Pereira said. “This year, we’re doing a pilot study. We have 22 students. If it’s successful, we’re looking forward to adding to it next year.”
Currently the 30-week program is limited to eighth grade but a successful debut means the addition of sixth and seventh grade students.