Inspiration can move in all sorts of ways. For Staci Del Deo, her desire to teach ebbed and flowed, and it wasn’t until returning to the town that she grew up in that the inspiration surged, …
Inspiration can move in all sorts of ways. For Staci Del Deo, her desire to teach ebbed and flowed, and it wasn’t until returning to the town that she grew up in that the inspiration surged, cascading over many other areas of her life and reigniting her love of teaching. After being named as Tiverton’s Teacher of the Year a few weeks ago, she recalls how that inspiration was born and all of the wonderful moments that followed in nearly a decade of teaching seventh grade math at Tiverton Middle School.
Speaking of inspiration, how did it all start? What was your call to teach?
It sounds super corny, but I graduated from Tiverton and it was my former teachers from Tiverton that inspired me to want to teach. But I didn’t start out teaching in Tiverton, [I taught at both Kickemuit Middle School and Portsmouth], which I also loved. But when I saw a position pop up in Tiverton, it really felt like I came home — I came back to the place that educated and inspired me to teach. It is profound to teach in the same place you were taught. It was so special in a way that I didn’t expect.
It sounds like you loved learning from Tiverton since the very beginning. Were there specific teachers who inspired you the most?
There were a few of them, and later on I reflected on what I loved about them and I kind of picked up a quality of teaching from each. First, my second grade teacher, Cynthia Coie, at Ranger School. She was just so kind. I think that was my first inclination that it was a special thing to do what she does, and that maybe I want to do it, too. Fast forward to middle school, Michael Clark [was my ELA teacher and] had just a great sense of humor ... I was just so happy to be in his class. I learned from him that you can inspire kids with a sense of humor. Then in high school, Ed Silva was my Portuguese teacher and he was just so passionate. He made you want to learn it, even if it was hard, because he was so excited about it. That taught me that you have to love your content when you teach it because that goes through to the kids. Then, lastly, I had David Janicki, he was my trigonometry teacher. I think that was the first time I hit a challenging spot in math. What I learned from him was that, even though it was a struggle, it’s important to challenge your students. He empowered me — when I’m in my classroom, I feel like I’m channelling these special people.
What is the best part of being in the classroom?
That’s obvious—it’s the kids. It’s those light bulb moments that they have. It’s helping them understand something that they didn’t understand before, but particularly in seventh grade math. I want them to love it, you know, and a lot of them come to me with some phobias around that content and have this kind of fixed mindset that they’re not good at this or can’t do this. But my big goal is always to make it approachable for them. I want it to be the ‘just right’ kind of challenging. The best part is empowering them to find their strengths.
When you found out you were receiving Tiverton’s Teacher of the Year award, what was your reaction?
I was honored. It's a special thing to to be given this award because you're nominated by your principal, all of administration, and all of the former winners — they all vote for you. That's an elite group, so it feels like a real honor to be grouped with them.
What is it about Tiverton?
It was a homecoming in so many different ways. The kids in Tiverton are so grateful for the energy that you put in. [But ultimately], it’s the culture. . . As I said in my acceptance speech, we have all heard the saying that it takes a village to raise a child but it takes a village to create a good teacher, too. My village includes not only some of my former Tiverton teachers and college professors ... but so many others: My parents, my husband, Ben, my children, Isabel and Brody, my former students and colleagues.