Mary Jo Giulioni, third-grade teacher and co-director of the Resource Program at Torah Institute, which works with children with learning differences, is spending the summer reminiscing about the last three decades — three decades spent working at an Orthodox Jewish school. What makes those 30 years even more special is that Giulioni is Catholic.
“The fact that my faith means so much to me, helps me appreciate people whose faith means so much to them,” she explained. “The whole staff is striving not just to be good teachers, but to be good people, and our administrators are always doing what’s honest and right. That’s a beautiful place to work.”
Mention Giulioni, and students and teachers smile. The first reaction: Giulioni is an amazing teacher.
As the Resource Program coordinator, she helps identify and assist children who struggle in the classroom. The program originally consisted of a single teacher, and in the years under Giulioni it developed into a sophisticated program.
“She is an absolutely wonderful teacher and person. Everyone excels in her class,” said Rabbi Mordechai Nissel, Torah Institute principal.
Rabbi Nissel said Giulioni has transformed the program into an amazing place, where “children are happy to be there and are all learning, and all feel a huge sense of pride. … She has the best interest of our children. … She is fighting for every service we could get for them from the state.”
In addition to all the work she does for the Resource Program, she is also a beloved teacher in the mainstream classroom.
One student, she said, moaned to her his last day of school, “This is the saddest day of my life.” When she asked him why, the res-ponse was “because I won’t have you as a teacher anymore, and you taught me so much.”
At the beginning of the school year, her new students are quick to tell her what they can’t do, or what they are not good at. What gives her the most satisfaction is helping her students develop their gifts and talents. She said it’s her job as a teacher to help each child realize his strength and to help him achieve his potential.
The best part of teaching, is “the fact that I get to help them [students] get excited about learning, and I get to help them love learning,” she said.
Her best memories in the classroom are when she finishes reading a really good novel to her third-graders.
“The whole class bursts into spontaneous applause,” she said.
Yisrael Ezra, who recently had Giulioni, said she was his favorite teacher.
“She gives out prizes,” he said.
Another student, Yaakov Glenner, now in seventh grade, said, “She reads books at the beginning of every class and at the end of every class.”
Yaakov said Giulioni would make class fun with her stories and raffles, and he saw even at a young age how she worked with every child at his level.
Another former student, Tuvia Rappaport, said she was the only teacher who “didn’t have to scream for the class to be quiet.”
What’s next for Giulioni? In just several weeks she’ll be back to school with everyone else, ready for another year at TI.
Rachel Finkelstein is a JT intern