By Elio Gugliotti, Editor
PROSPECT — Daniela Giampetruzzi knows what it’s like to come to the U.S. as a young child and struggle in school as she learned English.
“Coming to this country and having to learn another a language; I really struggled in school and I really needed to work with my teachers, and I was fortunate enough to have support from my teachers to guide me through,” said Giampetruzzi, who was born in Argentina and moved to Waterbury with her family when she was 5 years old.
Giampetruzzi’s experience as a child gave her perspective that serves her well in her career. As a reading interventionist at Prospect Elementary School, the 43-year-old Prospect resident is now in a position to help other children who are going through the same struggles she faced as a child.
However, a career in education wasn’t always on Giampetruzzi’s mind.
After graduating from Crosby High School in Waterbury in 1995, Giampetruzzi earned bachelor’s degrees in communication and Spanish from Assumption College in Massachusetts. Giampetruzzi, who is fluent in Spanish and understands Italian, wasn’t sure what she wanted to do when she graduated, though she knew it would involve languages — a passion of hers.
As a communications intern at a school in Massachusetts, she realized she wanted to work with children and teaching would be her path.
“I remember calling my mother and saying, ‘I think I want to be a teacher,’” Giampetruzzi recalled.
Giampetruzzi said she was a shy child trying to figure out a new culture and language, and she saw some children experiencing the same things she did while she was an intern.
“I knew how to relate to those kids because I faced the same challenges, so I knew that I’d be able to help them,” she said. “I remembered what it was like to have a hard time reading and understanding the language.”
Giampetruzzi went back to school and earned a master’s degree in elementary education from the University of Bridgeport — she would go on to earn a sixth-year certificate in remedial reading and remedial language arts from Central Connecticut State University and complete the intermediate administrative certification program at Sacred Heart University.
Giampetruzzi began her education career in 2000 as a bilingual teacher at Chase Elementary School in Waterbury. She spent the next 16 years in bilingual and reading roles in Waterbury schools before starting as a reading interventionist at Prospect Elementary in 2016.
Giampetruzzi, who is married and has two children in Region 16 schools, said she enjoyed every minute of her time in Waterbury. Giampetruzzi said she was lucky to have the opportunity to work in the community she lives in and called it a win-win to be at Prospect Elementary.
The feeling is mutual.
Giampetruzzi is Region 16’s 2021 Teacher of the Year.
“Daniela Giampetruzzi is an extraordinary teacher, mentor and colleague,” Prospect Elementary Principal Rima McGeehan said. “She is knowledgeable of best teaching and learning practices and strategies, places differentiated instruction as a priority for bringing students to their highest potential, and makes positivity contagious to those around her.”
McGeehan said Giampetruzzi works tirelessly with students and adults in and out of the classroom, and is a model for Prospect Elementary, Region 16 and public education.
Giampetruzzi said it’s gratifying to know someone took the time to acknowledge the work she does and nominate her, and humbling to receive the award.
“I was very humbled and honored, because I work with educators every day that work so hard in this region, and we really learn from each other,” she said. “So, I was humbled because I just come to work and I do my job every day. It was definitely nice to be recognized.”
As a reading interventionist, Giampetruzzi works with small groups of students that need support in reading. She works with students in and out of the classroom as well as teachers to discuss how the students are doing.
“Every day is a different challenge. It’s a different experience,” she said. “Kids are fun, they’re not afraid to ask you questions.”
Giampetruzzi prides herself on students asking a lot of questions.
“That’s important to me,” she said. “When you don’t understand something, you’re not going to get it if you don’t ask.”
Giampetruzzi’s philosophy is a simple: hard work will lead to success.
She gained a strong work ethic from her parents and knows that students who speak another language or struggle in class may have to work twice as hard, but will achieve their goals if they do.
“I always try to teach my kids don’t give up because it’s hard … just because it’s hard; don’t give up, you’re going to have to work harder, but you will get there,” she said.