Friday, May 20, 2022

Person of the Week

Love of Teaching Spans More Than Four Decades for Maureen Scalia


Maureen Scalia recently received the East Haven Chamber of Commerce’s Educator of the Year Award. Photo courtesy of Maureen Scalia

Maureen Scalia recently received the East Haven Chamber of Commerce’s Educator of the Year Award. (Photo courtesy of Maureen Scalia)

Maureen Scalia always knew she wanted to be a teacher and has been working the field for the past 42 years, spending the last 26 in the East Haven school district. She was recently awarded Educator of the Year by the East Haven Chamber of Commerce.

“I was very surprised, honored, and humbled,” says Maureen. “I was aware there was such an award but receiving it was something totally unexpected. There are so many people who may do more.”

When Maureen asked who had nominated her, she was surprised to hear that she had several nominations, though all nominations are anonymous. Maureen was also impressed by the award ceremony, which was “well set up and organized.” She received a plaque, a proclamation from Mayor Joe Carfora, and certificates signed by members of the General Assembly.

“I came home with all of these accolades,” says Maureen. “It was a lovely evening and made me feel very special.”

Maureen began her teaching career in 1979 after graduating from Central Connecticut State University with a degree in elementary education. She got a job as a head teacher at a large daycare center in Milford. While there, she earned her master’s degree in early childhood education as she says working with young children felt like “my niche.”

Maureen, who grew up in Northford, continued working at the daycare as she and her husband, Sal, began their family with daughter Taylor and son Salvatore. The couple settled in Sal’s hometown of East Haven and when Taylor began kindergarten, Maureen wanted to be closer to home, especially as the Q Bridge project was just getting underway at the time.

In 1996, Maureen took a job as a paraprofessional with the East Haven school district to not only cut down on her commute, but to be able to work fewer hours when her children were young. She worked as a paraprofessional for five years before being hired as a kindergarten teacher at Overbrook Elementary School.

“I quickly learned that paras work just as hard for a lot less money,” says Maureen, who received her sixth-year degree in foundations of education after beginning with East Haven. “When Karen Goodale became the principal of Momauguin, a kindergarten position became available and I was very lucky to get that position as I knew it was where the children could benefit most from my expertise and experience. I was lucky to get what I considered my dream job in the same district my kids were going to school.”

Maureen has now been teaching kindergarten in East Haven for 20 years, though a few years ago, she moved to Tuttle School. She now teaches in the same classroom where her children were taught years ago.

“It feels like I’ve come full circle as Tuttle was my home school for my kids and now I’m there,” says Maureen, whose children are now 28 and 30 years old. “I’m going into my 43rd year of teaching and I still love it. I enjoy it so much and think I still have something to give. It’s important to children to get them off on the right foot in their education.”

New Challenges

Maureen has seen many things change over the years, though of all of the things she has had to adapt to, she notes that the past year was particularly challenging with all of the adjustments that had to be made due to COVID. While it was a challenge for her, she realized her students took it all in stride and quickly adapted to new technology.

“Because it’s one of the first years they’re in school, there was no problem with kindergarteners adhering to the masks because it was all they knew,” says Maureen. “Now I teach in person students while I have a Zoom camera with five students at home. The pandemic has changed the landscape of teaching to include remote learning. Some of the things we’re doing now weren’t here even a year ago. Technology is a huge part of teaching now.”

Maureen can remember the introduction of computers into the schools and being taught how to look things up on the computer. Though she says technology is a “huge part” of teaching now, she continues to use some of her traditional ways.

Since she started teaching, Maureen created a monthly newsletter for parents; it’s a tradition she still continues now. Maureen also continues to use take-home folders for her students and often sends home hand-written notes in addition to posting online or sending an email. One thing that she has found that has remained the same is what the children bring to the classroom.

“I try to have a mix of things I’ve always done while embracing changing in things like Google Classroom or Zoom classes,” says Maureen. “In all my years teaching, what stays the same is the kids. They come in with an intense desire to learn, make friends, and have fun; though now they’re smarter about technology because they’re used to dealing with it. That part of learning comes naturally to them.”

Having worked in East Haven schools for 26 years, Maureen has already begun to see some familiar names on her class roster as children of her previous students enter kindergarten. Though sometimes she has to “search her memory banks,” she often can recall a former student’s face or name and now seeing a new generation is “interesting and fun.”

When Maureen is not teaching, she enjoys an array of activities, including creating artwork, reading, hiking, knitting, and crossword puzzles. She also likes to give back and volunteers as an usher at Long Wharf and supports various causes for children, conservation, and animals—she and Sal adopted a dog last summer. She also recently put a pollinator garden in her backyard.

“My favorite activities are probably reading, hiking or walking with the dog, and volunteering, which I’ll probably do more of when I retire,” says Maureen. “I always thought I’d retire when I’m 65, but I’m not there yet and I’ll have to reevaluate when I am there.”

For now, Maureen is going to continue enjoying her days as a kindergarten teacher, teaching in the room where her children began their own education. Taylor, who recently bought a house in East Haven, is now a licensed therapist with the Madison school district and Salvatore works in financial services.

“I’m very proud of my own two children who went to East Haven schools,” says Maureen. “I try to give every child everything they need to be successful and I continue to learn things all the time. They’re five and they say very profound, very cute, very funny things. Being around them keeps me young and keeps me laughing and keeps me engaged with changes in education.”

Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .

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