Personality: Catherine Monteith Marchetti

11/27/2014, 6 a.m.
Catherine Monteith Marchetti loves being a teacher.
Catherine M. Marchetti Photo by Sandra Sellars

Catherine Monteith Marchetti loves being a teacher.

She credits her parents and her adopted brother, Alex, for steering her into the field of education.

She recalls her mother working “so patiently trying to teach (my brother) the language and developmental skills” that did not come naturally to him.

“I became an early childhood exceptional education teacher because I want to help children like Alex,” Ms. Marchetti says.

And what a teacher she is.

Ms. Marchetti, 26, ranks among the best of the best in Richmond Public Schools.

She is Richmond’s 2015 Teacher of the Year.

Superintendent Dana T. Bedden presented the award to her, along with a $1,000 stipend, last week at a Downtown hotel.

The educator from Amelia Street School was singled out from among more than 40 colleagues who won teacher of the year honors at their individual schools.

“It was definitely a little surreal,” Ms. Marchetti says when she heard her named called.

“It is such an incredible honor. And, honestly, I’m just grateful every single day that I am given the opportunity to impact my students, their families and my community in such a meaningful way.”

She will represent Richmond in an upcoming regional competition.

A graduate of the University of Virginia, Ms. Marchetti began teaching four years ago at Amelia Street, a unique specialty school near Byrd Park that serves students ages 2 to 21 who have special needs.

In her work, she strives to build a strong relationship with each and every child so “I can meet them where they are.”

She says she strives “to teach the whole child” and ensure that the social, emotional, physical and developmental needs of those put in her charge are met.

The reward from her work: “Being able to witness the successes of my students. I love getting to make a positive impact on their lives and providing their families with the tools and confidence to do so as well.”

Meet this week’s Personality, Catherine M. Marchetti:

Date and place of birth: Dec. 21 in Richmond.

Current home: Richmond.

Alma mater: University of Virginia, bachelor’s degree in psychology and master’s of teaching in early childhood special education.

Family: I am the middle of five children. I have two sisters and two brothers and the cutest little niece, Eleanor.

Occupation: Early childhood exceptional education teacher at Amelia Street School in Richmond.

First teaching job: I started my teaching career at Amelia Street School and have been there ever since! We are so lucky to

have physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech language therapy and hearing and vision services all housed right within our school building. That allows comprehensive therapies and support to be incorporated daily into each students’ instructional program.

Community involvement: In an effort to grow as both an educator and community advocacy leader, I have been taking classes at Virginia Commonwealth University through the Virginia Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities Program. I realize this will be a continuous endeavor as best practices and policy change over time. But the tools and knowledge I am gaining allow me to be a vital source of information and hope for my extraordinary students and their families. I strive to serve the community every day through my commitment and passion of helping children with disabilities.

Why I became a teacher: When I was 13, my parents adopted my brother Alex from an orphanage in Kirov, Russia. He was 17 months old. And while the orphanage did the best they could, Alex spent most of that time lying in a crib with little stimulation. I watched during the next few years as my mom worked so patiently with him, trying to teach him the language and developmental skills that seemed to come so naturally to most babies and toddlers. It became apparent how critical those early life experiences are to a child’s development. I became an early childhood exceptional education teacher because I want to help children like Alex. I firmly believe that every child, regardless of developmental ability, has the potential to learn and succeed. Children with disabilities or delays, in particular, need to be instilled early with a high-quality education and a love of learning as a way of helping them to develop and demonstrate their unique potential and abilities.

Teaching philosophy: I believe James Comer put it best when he said, “No significant learning occurs without a significant relationship.” I strive to actively connect and build a strong relationship with each and every child so I can meet them where they are, regardless of what level that might be. By focusing on making the most of each child-centered interaction, I can most effectively drive student achievement and development. I strive to teach the whole child and realize that means not just differentiating my instruction within the classroom, but also making sure their social-emotional, physical and developmental needs are being addressed on a day-to-day basis.

Foremost reward of teaching: The greatest reward of teaching is being able to witness the successes of my students. Seeing a child with autism begin to come out of his world and independently seek social contact with peers is priceless. Getting a phone call from a mother crying hysterical, happy tears because her 5-year-old with severe communications delays used sign language for the first time in an effort to communicate with her is the best reward I can imagine. We celebrate all of these successes each and every day. There is no better feeling than knowing you are helping to improve these children’s lives in a very real and functional way.

Advice to aspiring teachers: Do it! It will be the best decision you’ve ever made. Be prepared for some long days but, honestly, I cannot think of a more rewarding career!

Role of parents in learning process: Parents are a vital part of the educational system! When parents and families get involved in their child’s school, they are demonstrating to their child that education is a top priority. Parents know their children best and I encourage them to get involved in their child’s education because they are their best advocates.

Biggest problem facing students today: The lack of high-quality preschool programs available to all children regardless of their socioeconomic background or ability level.

How this problem impacts schoolwork: Numerous research studies have shown the dramatic impact that a high-quality preschool experience can provide a child. Beyond immediate academic benefits, early childhood education has far sweeping and significant impacts on children throughout their life.

What needs to be done: High-quality preschool programs should be available to all 3 and 4-year-olds. Having students start kindergarten without ever having seen a book is unacceptable. A warm and enriching environment during a child’s formative years of development is crucial and we need to make it a reality in our public schools.

Favorite subjects in school: Biology and government.

How I relax: Reading or binge watching shows on Netflix.

Three words that best describe me: Patient, creative and encouraging.

Book that influenced me the most: My mother used to read “Love You Forever” by Robert Munsch to us every night before bed. I’m not sure she was able to ever successfully finish reading the whole book without tearing up! However, she certainly was successful in instilling an early love of books and appreciation for reading through her nightly ritual.

What I’m reading now: “The Leadership Challenge” by James Kouzes and Barry Posner.

Next goal: I plan to continue helping my students to reach their full potential on a daily basis. I understand as a preschool teacher, I am responsible for shaping my students’ first experience of school and it is not a task I take lightly. My goal is to ensure that my students have the best possible start to, not just their academic careers, but to their promising young lives.