By Kurt Gottschalk
Danielle Maracic ’14 was sitting in an open landing just outside her regular classroom on a sunny October afternoon. In her hand she held a rulerlike thermometer that she was using to teach addition and subtraction with negative numbers to three seventh-grade girls. A large, handmade “We Are the Future” banner covered the two windows facing the street.
“What’s the temperature in Alaska at noon?” she asked the girls, who all set about marking their plastic mock thermometers with crayons.
“What do I do to figure out how many degrees warmer is minus nine degrees?” she asked with the soft smile she seemed always to wear. One of the girls started explaining how she would count the numbers upward on the thermometer, while another longingly watched a group of older students pass by between classes. Another student walked by, stopping to give Maracic a gentle hug. Still, it’s easier to get them to focus here rather than in the busy classroom she shares with another teacher.
“I just like pulling them out because I think it’s easier to work out here where there’s less distraction,” she explained.
Maracic’s students, enrolled in special education, are among the 2,000 who attend the Harlem Children’s Zone Promise Academy Charter School in East Harlem, New York, free of charge. And, it seems, they’re in the right place. In 2015, the school saw a remarkable 93 percent college acceptance rate among its graduates. But academics isn’t the only concern. A Princeton study showed that female students in the school have a 59 percent lower pregnancy rate than their peers not attending the school and that incarceration among males had been reduced nearly to zero.
The Promise Academy is a long way from Maracic’s Ridge, Long Island, home. It’s also a long way from Adelphi University, where she graduated with a degree in special education, having made the dean’s list and membership in both the psychology and education honor societies.
Maracic said she knew she was a teacher from a much younger age. She was already teaching religion classes in her church when she was 13. It was the mother of a close friend, a special education teacher, who inspired her career path. Having struggled herself in school, she was heartened by the teacher’s spirit.
“She told us that she always loved it because she got to help kids who didn’t follow the normal path,” Maracic said. “I liked that because I always got good grades but I had to try.
“I’ve always worked with kids,” she added. “I taught cheerleading, I taught gymnastics, tutoring. I also taught at the preschool at Adelphi.”
“While I was attending Adelphi, and after I graduated, I utilized the career center online guides and resources,” she said. “I reviewed packets on résumé building, interviewing skills and job search strategies. I also utilized PantherZone [now Handshake], the online job search database.
“I wasn’t even going to apply to Adelphi, but my cousin went there so I said OK,” she said, “and the program turned out to be amazing.”
Maracic still spends time at Adelphi, but now she’s on campus as an instructor.
“I was asked by my graduate supervisor to return to Adelphi to assist other supervisors on how to teach their students best practices,” she said. “My supervisor also put me in contact with students attending Adelphi who were interested in tutoring for the teaching certification tests.
“Adelphi was where I began my career as an educator, and while attending I received nothing but support,” she added. “There is no greater feeling than being able to return to where it all began and help people who are where I once was.”
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