Teaching, Giving Back, and Why My Mother Pat Dessi is the Best Human Being I know

This is a monumental year for our family. This year, my mother Pat Dessi will retire from her chosen profession as an educator.

Pat Dessi

It’s important to note that teaching isn’t just a profession for my Mother. She’s one of those rare individuals who found her calling. When discussing the possibility of retiring, you can see the strain in my Mother’s face. She loves what she does. She gains strength from her colleagues, and unlike many people, she derives great reward and satisfaction from her job.  To understand what a huge decision this is, you first have to understand that my mother has been an educator for thirty three years.

Twenty eight of my Mother’s years have been spent in Carmel, New York at Matthew Patterson Elementary School, Five years were spent in Brooklyn at St. Patrick’s Elementary School.  She began her undergraduate work in 1966 at Pace University. She completed her undergraduate work at Mercy College in 1982.  She completed her graduate work at Long Island University in 1985.

The reason why I wanted to list her education along with her professional information is to help you understand why my mother is my hero, and truly the best human being I know.  She completed the bulk of her education while raising my brother and myself.  This used to impress me, now that I’m a father of two gorgeous girls it utterly staggers me.  I can’t imagine the self discipline, focus and determination needed to raise two boys with my Dad while continuing her education at such a high level.

When she left Pace in 1966 she did so because she had fallen madly in love with my father Adrian. She wanted to marry him, and start a family. When she paused her education she made a promise to my Grandfather (Papa) that one day she would return. Not only did she return, she continued on to earn her masters degree. As a parent, I’m in awe of my Mother. Instead of teaching my brother lessons about character, she lived them.

You can see why my affection for my Mother goes beyond just a Mother and son. She was, to paraphrase Gandhi “the change she wanted to see in the world”. She walked the walk, and set an example daily for my brother and myself.

I remember when my mother received her masters degree I said to her that I didn’t really remember her not being in school.  I was raised by a mother that kept a home, substituted and studied in every free moment she could. I have vivid memories of Mom sitting pool side in Mahopac with a book on her lap studying while she intermittently would peek up to make sure Mark and I weren’t killing each other :-)

I used to love when she would substitute teach at Lakeview Elementary school. I loved seeing her in the hallway, and telling my friends that was my Mother. She would always be respectful of me, and not embarrass me by saying hello, she’d allow me to initiate. Of course I would inevitably run up to her and give her a big hug and kiss. That’s the thing about Mom. She’s always thinking about other people. If she were unleashed on corporate America, I’m sure she’s be a CEO of a very lucky company. She conducts herself with a dignity that we no longer see celebrated today.  I remember once Mom substituted for my CCD class.  I was so proud to see her in action.  That pride quickly changed to admiration. I remember that she would thank each student for raising their hand.  That was the first, and last time I’ve ever seen or heard of such a think in a classroom. She was, by example teaching us. Be courteous, be respectful and I’ll be courteous and respectful to you.  What a phenomenal way to teach. She was gentle, yet stern and perfect. Just a perfect educator.  This really was her “calling” in life.

People talk about wanted to “give back”, but how many can say that they truly gave back. My Mother, as a special education teacher has taken kids that couldn’t read when they entered her classroom (in the 4th grade) and she’s taught them how to read. She has utterly changed the trajectory of so many lives over thirty three years that it give me pause.  If she touched the lives of only ten students a year that’s three HUNDRED and thirty lives she’s changed for the better.  All I can say is wow. Those student (some of whom I’ve had the pleasure of meeting) are a lucky group.  I can say that I hear my Mother’s words in my head each day.  Her life lessons are invaluable.

Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from witnessing my Mother’s stellar teaching career:

  • Be selfless
  • Be humble (she’s probably cringing as she reads this: Mom never seeks accolades)
  • Be yourself and good things will happen
  • Be close to God
  • Be your best self
  • Be aware of the “little ears” around you
  • Treat people the way you want to be treated
  • It’s never, ever about the money (it’s a travesty to see how underpaid educators are)
  • Anyone can have a job, not everyone is lucky enough to have a career they love

This short blog post does no justice to my Mother and her storied career.  She is a dying breed of human being. I only hope that my daughters will be half the person she is.

Mom will never forward this post to friends and family, so I’ll ask you – if you’ve been touched by an educator, had your life trajectory changed by someone who cared, or if you feel inspired by my Mother and her legacy of excellence;  please pass this post on.

Pat Dessi is truly the best human being I know.

I love you Mom, and I can’t wait to see all of the amazing things you’ll do in your retirement.