A gaggle of television cameras and reporters went downstairs at Keane Elementary School to wait for reading teacher Dana DeMarco.
“This is like Publisher’s Clearinghouse,” said Alan Zemser, principal of nearby Lincoln Elementary School, referring to the popular sweepstakes contest which surprises winners on camera. Zemser joined other school officials in waiting for DeMarco’s arrival.
When she finally appeared, Superintendent of Schools Eric Ely, a bouquet of flowers in hand, said, “Hi. Congratulations. You’re the teacher of the year.” DeMarco clearly was caught off guard.
“I’m just a little overwhelmed, surprised. It’s just been a pleasure to work for this district,” she said.
This is DeMarco’s first year at Keane, which is the former St. Luke’s School. She spent eight years at Lincoln teaching fourth grade and second-grade reading.
She teaches kindergarten through second-grade reading at Keane, which she said has a very good climate and the other educators are inspiring.
“We’re a brand new school this year so just getting to know everyone and being part of a team,” she said.
DeMarco said she tries to find topics that students find interesting.
Rachel Rourke, a first-grade teacher at Keane, nominated DeMarco and wrote letters of support, along with Principal John Sardos.
Sardos said DeMarco has recruited reading mentors to work with struggling readers and participated in the Positive Behavior Interventions and Support Team and Parent Partnership Team. She also spearheaded the school’s Read Across America events and a kindergarten through second grade pajama party reading night that drew more than 150 parents and children.
“Mrs. DeMarco has had a very positive effect on our overall school climate,” Sardos said in a statement. “Without Mrs. DeMarco’s vision and leadership, we would not have come as far as we have.”
He added that DeMarco goes above and beyond by visiting parents’ homes, taking people to their doctor’s appointments and following up with parents, staff members and even outside agencies to make sure children are successful.
Rourke added in a prepared statement that her students get excited about DeMarco helping them with their reading. “She has taken on more of a teacher coach/mentor role,” she said.
DeMarco’s mother, Mary Ann Tote, works in the district’s business office and was on hand to see her daughter get the award.
“She’s a hard worker, loves kids,” she said.
It is a family of educators with her two sisters teaching at Oneida and Lincoln schools.
DeMarco, 31, of Scotia, is a graduate of Russell Sage College. She is now eligible for the state Teacher of the Year award.