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Spotlight: Brothers from Another Mother

By Debarati Chowdhury

For this issue’s teacher spotlight, two very special teachers will be highlighted. Mr. Anthony D’Ammassa and Mr. Joseph Laricchiuta are two teachers that have both recently started teaching at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. Mr. Laricchiuta started teaching here two years ago, and Mr. D’Ammassa started teaching last year, with the former teaching Living Environment and Marine Science/Environmental Science and the latter teaching seventh grade General Science and Living Environment. Both are the new advisers for Stage Crew, and Mr. Laricchiuta advises GEAR club, and Mr. D’Ammassa coaches junior varsity girls soccer.

Q: How did you both feel about your first year teaching at NHP?

Mr. Joseph Laricchiuta: My first year was very interesting because it was the year of the shutdown. The first half of the year was normal, no masks or anything, and then the second half was the shutdown, and I didn’t know what to do. Funny story, the day before the shutdown, I was sick, and I left my stuff in the building like everyone used to do, so I went from March to June with my personal computer, during the first part of remote learning. Overall, it was fun, and it’s good to be back to normal.

Mr. Anthony D’Ammassa: It was kind of funny because when I talked to other teachers they would always say “Wow, this is quite a first year for you! But if you can get through this, you can get through anything.” And honestly, I didn’t really understand that because I feel like my first year teaching was great. It wasn't overly challenging in the sense of reaching the students. All the kids in my class were so great and responsive, and they always participated and talked in class. I really enjoyed my first year teaching, and I think the relationships that I was worried about not getting with my students, I did get, so that felt good.

Q: How has your teaching experience and style changed since your first year?

AD: The biggest difference between last year and now is not having the remote learning and having more students in the classroom, so my true teaching style didn’t change because I don’t think it was really my true teaching style last year. I do a lot of group work, and usually there’s a lot of hands-on stuff where everyone in the group is doing something. Since I couldn’t do that last year, now I finally can, so I feel my teaching style didn’t change from the true me, and this is my style that I can do now. [JL: Can you write “true me” as “trew m3”?]

JL: [To AD] You missed out before the shutdown. But, I guess to segue into my answer, I am more cautious about getting up close and working with the kids. I try not to spend too much time with one kid because of COVID. Before, I wasn’t afraid to go up and sit and help out. I still like to have fun, you know, and I like to put memes in my lessons. It’s not too far from my normal teaching style, and I think adjustments were made for COVID that I hope will go away next year, so I can really jump feet-first into my teaching style.

Q: What advice would you give to the new teachers on their first year teaching at Memorial?

AD: To hang out with us.

JL: [Laughs] Honestly, not terrible advice. Rely on each other, and rely on new teachers, especially with the way COVID has been. I think that, for example, Mr. D’Ammassa and I [AD: Are you gonna tell the story of how we met?]. Oh man. In the science department, Ms. Mondello, Mr. Freidberg, Ms. Lombardo and us all have our own group, and we help each other out, and we’re pretty close friends too. Rely on the veterans too, you know, Mr. Micciche, Ms. Radonis, Ms. Gelber. In short, don’t be afraid to ask for help. I also feel that the expectation for your first year is to go all in, but in reality, it’s ok to be scared, and just remember to do your best, but at your own pace.

Source by Anna Detke

Mr. Laricchiuta and Mr. D'Ammassa pose together.

Q: How does the pandemic affect the way you are teaching in the classroom?

AD: It adds a new layer, and it’s just another obstacle for teachers to overcome to get closer to the students. It doesn’t matter what subject, if it’s math or science, you are always teaching students. The common denominator is always kids, so getting to relate to those kids is one of the biggest objectives as a teacher. Not being able to stay as close and wearing masks has been another hurdle in terms of getting to know the students better. [JL: I mean, I still don’t know what my kids’ faces look like.] That’s also true.

JL: It directly affects us because we both teach Living Environment. So now it gives us something to constantly talk about and bring up. Bring up the immune system? Boom, COVID. Vaccines? Boom, COVID [AD: Talk about frogs? Boom, COVID.]. Me waiting for my dad to say he’s proud of me? Boom. Roasted. I’m just kidding. My father’s very proud of me.

Q: What high school and colleges did you guys attend?

JL: I went to Sachem East High School in the mid-Suffolk area, and then I went to SUNY Oswego for my Bachelors and SUNY Old Westbury for my Masters. SUNY Old Town Road ft. Lil Nas X. [AD: Oh my gosh and Billy Ray Cyrus?]

AD: I went to high school at New Hyde Park Memorial High School. Yeah, I know, exciting. I then went to SUNY Stony Brook for my undergraduate degree, and then Adelphi for my Masters.

Q: How has advising Stage Crew been, especially with the recent production for NHP Theater?

JL: As someone who’s never been involved in drama or stage crew in high school, it’s interesting. I thought it would be a fun thing to take on something new.

AD: Stage Crew was great! Built a lot of student relationships and got pied in the face!

Q: Do you guys have any hobbies outside of school?

JL: Yes, I like to play video games on my PlayStation 5, build legos, and solve my Rubik’s cube. I also like to skateboard!

AD: I have a dog that I like to take for a walk. I like being a nerd. I play soccer and basketball with my friends [JL: It’s his brother. He has no friends.]. Stop, I don’t have a brother.


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