I remember my first year in education: Kindergarten. As the baby of the family, I was beyond excited to finally be able to board the bus and head to school with my brother and sister. Back then kindergarten students went to school for a half day. There were morning and afternoon classes, and I was fortunate to be in the morning class as I don’t think I could have waited until after lunch to attend school! Mrs. Joyce Siragusano was, for me, the most amazing kindergarten teacher in the world. She did more than teach me how to sit in a circle, read, write, understand numbers and follow school directions. She instilled in me the desire to impact others in a positive way, to change the world for good.
Fast forward to high school. My high school years were some of the best years of my life, not because of all the extra curricular activities I was involved in, nor my active social life. I had an amazing teacher who taught me more about life than any other person on this planet. You see, back then females either prepped for business (secretary), teaching or nursing. I opted the business route. That meant I had Mrs. Nikki Calovini for 3 years of my high school experience. Our class was all inclusive, in that we spent the entire day with this amazing teacher. Only 12 girls were admitted into the class at one time. The impact she had on all 12 girls in that prep class was life changing. She taught us about autonomy, self-directedness and collaboration. Our Business Office Education Class (BOE) was in charge of running the entire school, from attendance, taking shorthand in meetings, to creating and then copying tests for teachers and everything in between. We had to be interdependent to keep that school running. We savored every single minute of it. Today, too many years later, I am still friends with those 12 girls and Mrs. Calovini.
On to college and decisions, decisions. I decided that the best way for me to leave my mark on others and impact the world was to pursue education rather than become a secretary. During my senior year of college, I was placed at the elementary school I attended as a child and taught under Mrs. Siragusano, who was now teaching second grade – I had landed right back where I started! It was the best internship I could have ever envisioned, and I was humbled and honored to learn from the one person who sparked that flame in me when I was 5 years old. Mrs. Joyce Siragusano became my school mom. She taught me a lot about the reality of being an educator and how to utilize all those all those methods and theories I learned in college. For example, The Piagetian Theory was fascinating to study in context, but real world application proved a bit frustrating! The transfer of college knowledge to real world application knowledge was both exhilarating and overwhelming. She modeled the balance between what I learned as a student and the tools I would need as an educator. I remember her saying “Welcome to the real world Donna.” I love the world of education and all it encompasses. I am forever grateful of the decision I made all those years ago.
I am who I am today because of the influence and impact of these great teachers, and I’d like to think that their influence lives on even in the lives of the students I taught. So in addition to thanking and honoring them, I would like to thank each and every educator for your commitment to education. I thank you for devoting your energy and talents in educating our youth. It sounds cliché, but it’s true: we never know the impact and influence we may have on a child.