Thursday, 27 June 2013 00:00
As her impressive 36-year career serving special-needs students in Massapequa gradually winds to a close, Linda Patrissi considers the lessons taught to her as a child by her grandfather as the driving force behind her impassioned life’s work.
“My grandfather was a glassblower from Sweden, and I loved his storytelling...we had no television back then, so we would rely on him, and he was a very creative person,” she said. “And the man that lived behind him worked for book publisher Doubleday...we’d visit him for tea, and he always had the newest books, and we got to take them home. I soon realized that I wanted to do something with stories and learning in my life.”
Patrissi, 58, who retires this June after working in the Massapequa school district since 1977, was born in Freeport and currently calls Massapequa Park her home. She resides there with her husband and daughter, and credits a brief stint as a Sunday school teacher for her local church as the catalyst for steering her career towards helping those with special needs.
“God has always been a part of my life, and one day he told me that he needed me to work with the special children,” she said. “Plus, as a child, I had glasses and I was chubby...I didn’t feel like I fit in back then, and I saw that I could relate to these children, and make a difference in their lives.”
After obtaining her master’s degree, Patrissi got a part-time job with the Massapequa school district. Her superb performance there opened doors for her, eventually leading to full-time employment as a Special Education teacher in several of the district’s elementary schools (she currently works at Fairfield), a position she has held for nearly 37 years.
Patrissi has dealt with a great deal of hardship in her life, including the near-death of her husband at the hands of a drunk driver. However, she remained steadfast throughout his recovery, and in the end, the two welcomed their daughter into the world together.
“Guess who got me through it all? The kids and my staff,” she said. “They helped me stay strong through my husband’s recovery.”
As for why Patrissi chose this time to call it a day on her career, she cites several reasons; however, the most prevalent one is her displeasure with sweeping changes that New York State is making to education, particularly with the newly-mandated “Common Core” learning standards. Patrissi says that the standards impose an overly rigid and difficult set of teaching guidelines upon both students and teachers.
“The Common Core has changed a lot...you can no longer teach with creativity and imagination,” she said. “We’re setting special needs children back almost a whole generation with adherence to strict assessment tests and teaching guidelines that allow no flexibility...the creativity is gone. The children are upset, and it’s causing stress for teachers as well. I might have stayed on a few more years if it wasn’t for Common Core.”
Despite putting in for her retirement at the end of this school year, Patrissi won’t be taking it easy; in fact, she already has a full plate of activity in store for her come this June.
“Massapequa has already asked me to work on their pre-school committee for the handicapped, and that’s a nice thing to be offered,” she said. “I plan to be active in my church, as well as taking it easy and getting to know who I am. I also want to follow my daughter as she goes to college, and I’m very excited for her. I want to watch her blossom.”
Patrissi’s drive to keep busy, however, is obviously fueled by the joyous memories accumulated by nearly four decades of encouraging children to be all that they can be.
“I feel blessed to have had a career this long in education,” she said. “I would work long hours, take it home, and still be ready for more the next day. The memories I’m going to have are the beauty of being an educator. I have such wonderful memories that will stick with me, and I’ll always work with children, no matter where life takes me next.”