Educator Spotlight: Meet Luis Oliveira

High school teacher an advocate for students and families learning a new language

This story is part of a series that celebrates Teacher Appreciation Month. Each day, we will introduce to you an outstanding educator within our Flipgrid community. Stories by Angela Tewalt.


Luis Oliveira arrived in the United States from Portugal at the age of nine.  


At the time, he thought of himself as a pretty good student. He was eager to learn and excited to start anew. But then he started school on a Wednesday.  


“I went from doing a really good job in school to having no confidence and feeling like I was stupid,” says Luis, who now teaches English language learners in Rhode Island. “And the reason I felt this way was because I couldn’t verbally express myself.”  


Luis recalls a math class in which the teacher was going over times tables. She had different problems up on the board and was asking the class for answers.  


“A lot of students were struggling,” he says. “I knew the answers, I just didn’t know how to say it! I was so frustrated that I got up and went right to the board to just write them down myself. I learned English pretty fast after that.” 


Years later, he remembers that child vividly as he guides his students today.  


“Just because a student isn’t able to communicate does not mean they don’t have anything to say,” Luis assures. “We just have to find a way to bring their voice out.” 

Advocating for Students, Teachers and Families, Too

Luis has been teaching at Middletown High School in Middletown for 29 years. As a former Spanish teacher, he now works with English language learners alongside his role as an arts director, covering electives for the district and offering help as a tech coach for teachers as well. He discovered Flipgrid about three years ago during a professional development session.  


“I fell in love with it instantly because, right away, I saw how it could be used with my English language learners.” 


His students responded likewise.  


“With English language learners, they don’t want to stand out,” Luis says. “They don’t want to be in front of the classroom until they’re comfortable with the language. But Flipgrid allows them to record in a quiet place alone.


“They can stop and record again, delete and start over until they feel comfortable enough, eventually giving them the confidence they need when they do have to finally get up in front of the class with everybody looking at them. I remember what that was like getting up in front of my class before I was ready.” 


Luis says it’s the oral learning that has prevailed because he’s given his students an opportunity to see for themselves what they can achieve.  


“My students never believe they are showing improvement, so I use Flipgrid’s MixTapes feature all the time to say, ‘Look! In September, you were doing your video completely in Spanish. You couldn’t even speak in English. But, three months later, your videos are all in English!’ The proof is in the video.” 


Luis has been training teachers, too, and even helping families acclimate to new technologies amid remote learning.  


“For many of these children, their families work in the restaurant industry, and, in many cases, restaurants are closed. Even under the best of circumstances, they are at a disadvantage,” Luis says. “So I have a phone log. I make a lot of calls to parents and deliver hot spots and laptops. I reach out in any way I can. I’ve been using Immersive Reader so families know where to pick up grab-and-go lunches. 


“There were folks who did that for me a long, long time ago, and it’s why I got into education. We just have to think outside the box to fix any problems our kids are facing, so that’s what I do.” 


Luis is resourceful, warm, persistent and kind. He empathizes with his students in a way that helps them feel a confidence in themselves without even knowing yet what’s possible. They keep going because he keeps going, and that little boy from Portugal should have known those steps toward the chalk board were for the millions of other children like him to follow.  


“I am always thinking of the students’ needs and helping them where they’re at,” Luis says. “I am a very strong advocate for my kids – for all kids.” 


Follow Luis on Twitter