Saratoga County

Mother Teresa Academy founder teaches caring, responsibility

In the hallways of this Clifton Park school, pictures and statues are constant reminders of Mother T
Joyce Maddalone, founder of Mother Teresa Academy in Clifton Park, reads to kindergartners in their classroom.
Joyce Maddalone, founder of Mother Teresa Academy in Clifton Park, reads to kindergartners in their classroom.

When she was a young girl in New Jersey, Joyce dreamed of having a big family.

She had a sister who was five years older, but Joyce was often lonely and yearned for a noisy home filled with playmates.

Joyce grew up, and like many women of her generation, she became a nurse. She married and started a family.

And then her dream came true in a very big way.

Today, Joyce Maddalone of Glenville is the mother of 13 children, eight sons and five daughters, who range in age from 28 to 50.

She and her husband, Hank, have 42 grandchildren, the youngest born only six months ago.

And that’s not all.

From Monday to Friday, Maddalone has 60 more children in her care.

She is the founder of the nine-year-old Mother Teresa Academy in Clifton Park.

She is the head of marketing and her daughter, Debbie Maddalone-Kenyon, is the executive director.

Off Route 9, near Wal-Mart, the one-story brick building on Executive Park Drive is a cheerful place, filled with sunlight and the joyful chatter and clatter of young children.

Some 60 students, ages 3 to 6, wear gray plaid uniforms and are enrolled at three levels: nursery school, pre-K and kindergarten.

“We follow New York state curriculum but we enhance it,” says Maddalone, a soft-spoken woman who is quick to laugh.

In the hallways, pictures and statues are constant reminders of Mother Teresa, the Albanian nun and missionary who died in 1997. In 2003, she was beatified as Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, the first step toward sainthood in the Roman Catholic Church.

As the children walk in the front door, near a statue of Mother Teresa holding a baby, a poster lists Mother Teresa values for each month of the school year. December is patience, January is forgiveness and February is love.

Maddalone named the school for Mother Teresa because she could relate to a saint who was a nurse and lived in recent times.

“She has done so many wonderful, wonderful things. She gave herself totally to people. To me, that’s a beautiful thing.”

Maddalone decided to start her own Catholic school more than 10 years ago when she was a school nurse at St. Paul’s and St. John’s schools in Schenectady, and watched as Catholic schools in the diocese were forced to close their doors.

“I said ‘OK, enough of this, I’m going to attempt to start one,’ and I thought Clifton Park might be the best place to do it. The population was growing rapidly.”

It took Maddalone about a year and half and lots of legwork to get the school up and running.

In the beginning, the Academy, which is accredited by the National Association of Private Catholic and Independent Schools, operated out of Methodist and Reformed Churches in Clifton Park. For five years, it was located on Moe Road. Two years ago, it moved again to Executive Park Drive.

“I think we have a niche,” Maddalone says.

Sixty percent of the students are Asian, from families who moved here from China and India.

“That has to do with Global Foundries and GE,” she says.

“They are young children and they don’t have the language at all but they are picking it up by full immersion. I believe that people in other countries value a private education more than a public education.”

Funding challenge

Funding the school, which Maddalone would like to someday expand to offer grades one through five, is the biggest challenge.

“We don’t have a parish to support us. We are only funded by tuition and whatever fundraising we can do.”

Maddalone strongly believes in teaching values and responsibility from the earliest ages.

Every morning, the children meet for 15 minutes in a centrally located classroom called The Chapel.

“They sing a couple of religious songs, very cute ones, then the teacher will do a little Bible story or theme or story. While we are talking about the value of the month, we do a little example. And then we ask them to give us some examples. We also celebrate birthdays, we always salute the flag.”

Maddalone raised her own 13 children with the same principles she promotes in school.

“Responsibility is so important,” she says.

Her children had a long list of chores.

“I really feel as though today we’d be better off if our children were able to have newspaper routes, shovel snow and do things like that, which basically they don’t do any more, because it makes them such better people.”

She also believes in rules and consequences for breaking those rules.

“We had a strict house. It’s good for kids to know that you shouldn’t step over that line.”

When women ask how one could raise such a large family, she answers with one word: “management.”

“Once I had my third child, it was really easy because then I became a manager.”

The children were actively involved in the household.

“And as they grew up, they all took care of each other. And actually most of them became entrepreneurs. All my sons are doing the cooking in their homes.”

Her son Chris runs Maddalone & Associates, a property management and real estate development company in Schenectady. Another son, Guy, is founder and CEO of GTM Payroll Services in Clifton Park.

Joyce Maddalone, who gave birth to 13 children in 22 years, always worked as a nurse, either part time or as a volunteer.

She worked at St. Clare’s and then she opened her own nursing service agency with her son Chris so she could work out of the home.

Then she went into school nursing.

She still works as nurse, doing assessments for long-term health insurance.

Helping people

“I just love being with people and helping them,” she says. “It’s a beautiful ministry being a nurse, if you look at it that way.”

Joyce and Hank, who belong to Immaculate Conception Church in Glenville, have been married 52 years, and still live in the Glenville home where they raised their family.

“My husband built the house,” she says.

When their children were school-age, they all went to St. Joe’s in Scotia, St. Paul’s in Schenectady and Bishop Gibbons.

Early in their marriage, Hank had a construction company, and then for 30 years, he worked as a project manager at nuclear power plants all over the country.

He now works as a courier in their son Guy’s company.

Six of their children also work with either Guy or Chris.

“That’s why I think it’s easier with a larger family. We all help each other out.”

Helping and caring are words that Joyce mentions often, and she believes that for women, those roles are part of their nature.

“Women have such a caring nature about themselves. We have that gift of doing that. And so can develop our children. We need someone to take care of people just like the sisters always took care of sick people.”

Ask Maddalone who she would choose if she could meet with any living person on Earth, she doesn’t pause for even a second.

“Pope Francis. He really epitomizes what we should be doing in our life, to take care of each other.”

Reach Gazette reporter Karen Bjornland at 395-3197, [email protected] or on Twitter @bjorngazette.

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