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Growing up in East Haven, Giana Fazzino is excited to return to her childhood alma maters as a social worker. (Photo courtesy of Giana Fazzino )
Giana Fazzino has always loved school, reading, and writing. She has fond memories of her early years at Carbone Elementary School (now East Haven Academy) and East Haven Middle School. Many of those memories are now coming back to her as this summer, she was hired as a social worker, splitting her time between the two schools.
“It feels really great and I’m very grateful to be able to work in these two buildings where I went to school—it’s emotional in a good way,” says Giana. “I feel like I came full circle and now I can give back in the community I grew up in.”
With a lifelong love of school and academics, Giana grew up wanting to become a teacher, noting that she was inspired by many of her teachers. She followed that dream when she went to college and began taking special education courses.
“I always loved school because I loved to read and to write and I loved academics and studying. I was big nerd,” Giana says, laughing. “You got to see your friends and play and my teachers were amazing. I admired them and being a teacher was always my dream job.”
As Giana continued her coursework, though, she found that she wanted to find a way in which she could work with students one-on-one. She began taking classes in social work, graduating from Albertus Magnus before completing grad school at UConn.
“In college, I realized I wanted to do more and be able to help kids with things that can’t be addressed in the general classroom,” says Giana. “I knew I wanted to provide more of the counseling side of things. I saw the challenges kids were facing and I wanted to help on an individual basis or group basis with the issues they struggle with at school or in the community.”
Last year Giana was hired as a special education paraprofessional at East Haven High School and in January 2020, a long-term social work substitute position opened up at Momauguin Elementary School. Giana was excited to begin using her education in her dream career in her hometown.
Giana began to settle into her new role, but things changed soon after. When the COVID-19 pandemic began, Giana and her co-workers had to quickly pivot in order to continue to provide services to their students.
“Right in the beginning, nobody knew what was going on and it was a little scary for kids, but we were really lucky we had a really strong team at Momauguin,” says Giana. “We worked together to connect with students, had Zoom meetings, and still saw students on our caseload, making sure to do fun things together, even if it was on Zoom. We also did lessons with different classes to engage to the kids to help them feel not so alone as the social piece was so important during the pandemic. We wanted to connect with kids throughout the school, not just on our caseload.”
At Momauguin, Giana worked with students in grades K to 5. She and the team adapted their lessons to an online format and found ways to help students connect and socialize from home.
This past summer, Giana was hired for a full-time social work position, splitting her time between East Haven Academy and Joseph Melillo Middle School. With East Haven Public Schools returning to a full in-person model with some students opting for virtual learning, Giana began to prepare for the school year, now working with 1st to 8th graders.
“I knew it would be a different year because students were returning after being out since March so the goal was to make them feel safe and connect with them and let them know I was there for them during this unprecedented time,” says Giana. “My goal for the year was to do a lot of classroom lessons in addition to my caseload because everybody is affected by this pandemic.”
Giana works with teachers in each school to create lessons around themes such as coping, kindness, friendship, and more. She enjoys the challenge of adapting to the needs of all of the different age students she serves.
In addition to working with classrooms, Giana meets with individuals and groups on a weekly basis. She keeps an open line of communication with teachers and staff to identify students in need and also encourages students or parents to reach out to her as well by calling the school or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Giana’s experience with students isn’t limited to her time with East Haven Public Schools or her college classes. She has worked with New Haven Reads, a non-profit literacy organization, for years, coming into the organization as an intern during her undergraduate studies.
She enjoyed her work so much that after she completed her internship, she continued to tutor there and was eventually hired as assistant site director. Now Giana is the site director, coordinating tutoring services and resources during the week and overseeing the Saturday program.
“I love my coworkers and love the work that they do at New Haven Reads and how involved they are in the community,” says Giana. “We support students who go to school in East Haven so it’s nice to have that connection to my hometown, too. As a team, New Haven Reads also works with schools and talks with teachers to see how we can support the student outside of school.”
Even though Giana is now working full-time with East Haven schools, she has no plans on giving up her work at New Haven Reads, noting that the schedules work well together.
“I love my work at New Haven Reads,” says Giana. “I just can’t give it up. It’s something I do for me. It’s fulfilling.”
Outside of work, Giana enjoys reading, hiking, and spending time with her family. She enjoys that her parents live just down the street from the school where she works so she is able to see them often.
“I am just so excited a position opened up in this town where my parents still live and the schools I loved growing up. It feels so special to be working in East Haven and I love what I do and love working in these two schools,” says Giana. “I always wanted to work in a school and right now my goal is to form my roots as a social worker and get to know my kids and their families. I want to be as helpful as I can to as many families as I can.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .