DeCurtis retiring after 40 years in NP schools

DeCurtis retiring after 40 years in NP schools

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Donna DeCurtis has dedicated her life to the students of North Providence, giving back tenfold to the community that molded her.

After 40 years of teaching in North Providence, DeCurtis is preparing to retire at the end of the school year.

DeCurtis said her teachers in North Providence inspired her to seek a career in education. Through educators such as Mario Abruzzi, DeCurtis said, “I realized the impact I could have.”

“It was his approach. We weren’t afraid to make a mistake in his room, and his room was open to us. If we did make a mistake, it was okay, we’d take it and learn from it. I try to instill that in my kids,” she said.

After graduating from North Providence High School, she earned her degree in special and regular education at Rhode Island College before taking her first teaching position back where she started as a student: Whelan Elementary School.

DeCurtis taught kindergarten at Whelan for about five years before moving to Greystone. She was a 2nd-grade teacher for a time before transitioning to 5th grade, which she has taught there ever since.

“Once a cougar, always a cougar,” she said, quoting the high school’s slogan.

“Greystone School is a family. Not only with the students, but with the teachers. It’s the camaraderie. Everyone is willing to help and work with each other,” she said.

DeCurtis, who was Greystone’s Teacher of the Year, said of her colleagues, “we get together with each other often, we share things, we go out to dinner … we’re not only colleagues but we’re friends. It’s hard to find that in any working environment.”

Over the years she has worked with teachers she had when she was a student in North Providence. And now, some of her former students have returned to work with her.

Distance learning is not how DeCurtis hoped to end her teaching career, and shesaid the loss of face-to-face connections with her students and colleagues has been “quite devastating, after this being my life for 40 years.”

On a positive note, DeCurtis said the current pandemic has allowed people to become more appreciative. “It makes us stop and smell the coffee,” she said.

“I’m happy that I’m able to retire, but it’s also bittersweet,” she said. She does not have children of her own, but said her students are her kids. The most rewarding part of her career is watching them “come into my classroom in September and leave with confidence at the end of the year, knowing they’re ready to move onto middle school and that they can do the work.”

There’s also the moment when the material clicks for a student, “when you see that little lightbulb go off in their head. You teach a lesson and you can see it in their eyes that they get it and they understand it.”

Greystone Principal Stefanie Lafleur said through DeCurtis’ 40 years of service, she has “won the support and respect of her students, their parents, fellow teachers and staff with her professional, articulate and caring personality.”

Lafleur said DeCurtis is a mentor to new teachers at her school and college students, a union delegate at Greystone, and has served as yearbook coordinator for the last 13 years.

“Her contributions to the school and the community at large are numerous,” Lafleur said. “Ms. DeCurtis is a participant of The Feinstein committee, which supports good deeds for the community, attends all PTA meetings and functions for the school, organizes the involvement of community members into the classroom to teach students about careers and jobs, encourages students to write books to be donated to Hasbro Children’s Hospital, and developed a program in conjunction with the schools social worker for parents and students to become aware of Internet safety.”

Supt. Joseph Goho said, “Donna is a phenomenal person and teacher. She is totally selfless and has always been a champion advocate for her students, her colleagues, and the community of North Providence.”

Comments

As a parent of two daughters who attended and a former PTO President of Greystone School, I cannot thank Ms. DeCurtis enough for her dedication and hard work. She was always there for her students and was a dedicated member of the PTO. Best wishes to Donna for whatever comes next!