It was a whirlwind 15 minutes for Fox Chase Elementary School autistic support teacher Grace Kelly.
First, she was called into Principal Rob Caroselli’s office. She was under the presumption it was just for a brief discussion before the pep rally began. When she entered the office, she was introduced to actor Tony Danza, of Taxi and Who’s the Boss? fame.
In 2009 Danza taught at Northeast High School for a reality show and had been in touch with Caroselli since, so it wasn’t the craziest thing in the world to meet the Emmy-winning actor, albeit that abruptly.
But when Kelly, Caroselli and Danza took a stroll through the school’s backdoors and hundreds of children started chanting her name – that was a surprise.
“Whoa, this is all for me,” Kelly said of her thought process after the May 3 pep rally had dispersed. She had been under the impression the rally was just to celebrate the school’s PSSA attendance.
“I felt really appreciated,” she said.
Kelly is one of 10 teachers in Philadelphia and surrounding areas to be selected as a Phillies 2019 All-Star Teacher. This is the 19th year the Phillies honored area teachers who were nominated by parents for making a difference in their children’s lives. It’s an accomplishment that reassured Kelly in her career choice, as she’s been at the school only since December 2017.
“This is my first full school year, so this is definitely confirmation I’m in the right place,” she said.
She was nominated by a student’s mother and found out she would receive the recognition in early April. Winners were invited to the May 3 Phillies game, given prime seats close to home plate and invited to dance with Phillie Phanatic on the field. (Kelly elected to give her seats to her parents and watch the game with other teachers a bit higher up.)
Kelly certainly felt appreciated from the event, but feels her job already awards her every day.
“I’ve seen lots of growth amongst the students I had last year and this year. I work with a population where some of them are nonverbal, so just seeing them being able to say more words, or seeing any academic or social and emotional growth, is really amazing,” she said.
Once the students, many of whom were donned in Phillies gear, were done cheering for Miss Kelly, the excitement continued. Caroselli let students shave his head to celebrate grade 3-5’s 97-percent attendance during PSSAs. Students swarmed the principal to grab the electric razor and swipe a chunk of his hair off his head.
“It’s going to take one more year for my hair to grow back thanks to you,” a newly-shaven Caroselli announced to the crowd of cheering students.
Danza has long been a friend of Northeast Philadelphia schools. The actor helped instruct an English class at Northeast High School during the 2009-2010 school year for his reality show, Teach: Tony Danza. He also wrote a book based on the experience.
“It was a fun way to spend a Friday afternoon,” Kelly said with a laugh. ••