By Chris and Rebecca Scalise
Chris Scalise graduated from CV in 1992. The couple's four children, James, Elizabeth, Sarah and Anna have had Mrs. Lucatorto in kindergarten.
“Mrs. Lucatorto is retiring this year.” Try saying it in public. There is almost always someone nearby who will reply, “Oh wow! I had her when I was in school,” or, “My kids had her for kindergarten.” That is always followed by adjectives such as “awesome,” “wonderful,” and “the best!” The conversation is then always concluded with “I loved Mrs. Lucatorto so much!”
Helen Lucatorto grew up in the and she says that her earliest memory of school was watching her big sister go to school. Helen couldn’t wait for it to be her turn to go. She grew up in a hardworking family. Mrs. Lucatorto’s mother valued education, and Helen finds that her mother’s own example of succeeding and doing well in school in spite of extremely hard times holds special meaning to her. Helen’s father was a World War II veteran and a hard-working steelworker whose perseverance was a motivation for her. Helen’s own loving family, her husband and her two children, are also a continuing source of encouragement and support.
In addition to her family, Mrs. Lucatorto also credits her education at Chartiers Valley for giving her the motivation to teach. Her kindergarten teacher was particularly inspirational and continues to be someone she has always admired.
“Growing up in Chartiers Valley, I felt a sense of pride and determination to do my best, and I began to desire that opportunity to make a difference for students,” she said.
After finishing high school at Chartiers Valley, she earned her Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. She then went on to earn a Masters Degree in Education at the University of Pittsburgh. Mrs. Lucatorto began teaching in 1974 when she started at Chartiers Valley. In that time she has had the opportunity to teach every grade level from kindergarten to eighth grade. In 1989, Mrs. Lucatorto began teaching in Chartiers Valley's full-day Kindergarten program at its inception. That was 23 years ago and she has been there ever since.
Mrs. Lucatorto has contributed and accomplished so much for the district and particularly for . In 1996, the district created department head positions in the primary school.
“It seemed to be an important idea for elementary programs, and I didn’t want it to be withdrawn, so I offered to do it,” Mrs. Lucatorto said, adding that she stayed in that position until the end of the 2010 school year and chose not to reapply. “I knew I had plans for retirement in the near future and wanted to concentrate all my efforts in the last years to educating the students in my classroom.”
Over the years, Mrs. Lucatorto opened her classroom as a way to guide and mentor high school students who had to observe or do a senior project. Mrs. Lucatorto was a senior project consultant and she “would meet with the seniors, help them design their projects, and give them opportunities to complete their projects” in her classroom.
Mrs. Lucatorto has the heart of a mentor and spent a great deal of time working with interns from the MAT program at the University of Pittsburgh. The elementary department heads had given feedback to the district on the disruptiveness of their meetings and the affect it had on their classrooms. Instead of having various substitutes in the classrooms, they wanted more consistency. After a number of options were considered, the district decided to work with interns who were fifth-year students who had Bachelor’s degrees and were working towards Master’s degrees in education. During this time, Helen mentored thirteen interns. The district would send department heads to the university to interview candidates, and the successful candidate would share classroom responsibilities during the day and take a full graduate level coarse load during the evenings. Once the interns had qualified for a certificate through testing and coursework, they would then substitute for Helen while she was carrying out her department head responsibilities. This provided consistency that Helen so valued for the students in her classroom and a smaller ration of student to teacher help.
“It may be common sense, but as a parent the best thing you can do for your child is to provide a loving, secure family and to demonstrate that you value and support your child’s education,” Mrs. Lucatorto said. “As a teacher, providing a caring, safe environment, keeping open communication with families, and using researched ‘best practices,’ things that have provided proven positive results, are good guidelines.”
She said she’ll miss the children and their families the most in her retirement.
“Witnessing the growth that the kindergarteners make in one year is very rewarding,” Mrs. Lucatorto said. “Partnering with families and helping them transition their children into ‘formal’ education is exciting. It was often my honor to have all of the children from a family come through my classroom. That is special.”
Helen Lucatorto will be greatly missed at Chartiers Valley Primary School. Her retirement brings about the end of an era. She is always in the hearts of the vast number of students and parents who she has touched during her career. Mrs. Lucatorto is greatly looking forward to being able to take a deep breath, to feel the contentment of all that she has experienced and accomplished in her life, and plan for more family time.
“Having the opportunity to teach in one of the area’s best districts, working with hundreds of children over the years and living out my dream to go to college and become a teacher are all highlights that I cherish,” Mrs. Lucatorto said. “Over the years, I have received many honors including Teacher Excellence awards and Gift of Time awards, but the pride I experience is in knowing that I always put my best efforts into creating opportunities for my students to be successful.”