📓 My First Year Episode 1: Lessons in Learning

By Office of Communications
Spotlight
September 18, 2023

Ms. Vivi is a first-year, third-grade teacher at Shrevewood Elementary School. Get a glimpse of what it's like to be a first-year teacher at FCPS with the My First Year docu-series. In our debut episode, Lessons in Learning, witness Ms. Vivi as she prepares her classroom and meets some of her students for the very first time. Stay tuned for more episodes filled with heartwarming moments in the classroom and unexpected breakthroughs as we follow Ms. Vivi through her first year of teaching.

Varvara “Vivi” Zakharevich knew from the time she was in first grade at Lemon Road Elementary School that she wanted to be a teacher when she grew up. Now, almost 20 years later, her dream has finally come true as she prepares for her first year teaching third grade at Shrevewood Elementary School.

When Vivi was five, her family moved to Fairfax County from Russia. It was a big shift for her, but she immediately found comfort with her first-grade teacher Mrs. Brown. 

“She was my dream teacher,” said Vivi. “Mrs. Brown was the person that you could go to for anything. If something was wrong, if you felt sad, if you felt happy, you wanted to share that with her and she was always ready to listen.”

Vivi’s math skills were on par with her peers, but she struggled to communicate because she didn’t speak English. “I know that’s a really tricky part of a teacher’s job to be able to teach when the student doesn’t understand the language you’re teaching in,” she said. “She used a lot of visual things to help me find my way.”

Vivi decided then and there that if she was fortunate enough to become a teacher, she knew exactly the kind of teacher she wanted to be. 

“I wanted to be the teacher that kids remembered many, many years later, to inspire their growth and who they are as a person,” she says. “I wanted to be a part of people’s lives. I wanted to be like Mrs. Brown.” 

Heading into her first year, Vivi is most excited to meet her students and establish a relationship so they feel comfortable around her and in her classroom. “If you do not have a rapport with your students, the likelihood that they will learn and listen is lower,” said Vivi. 

“Everyone comes with [their own set of] emotions and baggage,” she explained. “Some days, kids will have great days. And some days, they will be going through [something]. If they don’t feel comfortable telling you how they’re feeling and what’s going on, then your math lesson is going to be the last thing they’re worried about. [It’s my job] to make sure my kiddos feel good, feel safe, and are ready to learn.”

To accomplish this, Vivi’s goal is to establish clear routines and expectations at the start of the school year. “Students feel safer when they know that there is structure,” said Vivi. “Procedures are the one thing I really want to master.”

Although Vivi has some nerves heading into the first day of school as a first-year teacher, she knows her students will remember her. “I want to make sure that they are learning to the best of their ability. My main goal is to be like Mrs. Brown and be there for my students,” she explained. “My vow is to take it one day at a time and stay true to what I want to represent as a teacher.”