I taught at North Allegheny Intermediate High School for 35 of my 37 years. I was honored to be part of a faculty that lived the mantra of excellence in teaching. One of my former colleagues died on Saturday after a brief illness, and not only was he an excellent teacher, he inspired others through his life story.
Frank Dileo was born in the small town of Sant' Onofrio, Calabria, Italy. After World War II, his mother recognized that she wanted a better life for her children. With several relatives already in America, she pinned a note to Frank's shirt front - reading FRANCESCO DILEO BRACKENRIDGE, PA - and kissed Frank goodbye before he boarded a ship for the United States. Earlier, Mrs. Dileo saw a woman getting ready to board - she explained that Frank was just 9 years old and all alone on this voyage - and she asked the woman to check on him. Frank later told me that he saw her just one time. She asked if he was doing OK, and he replied yes. It was a scary voyage for a young boy all alone. When he got to the port of New York, Frank was retrieved by his relatives from Brackenridge, and he went on to get his education and make his mark from there. During high school, Frank's artwork was entered into a contest by his art teacher. Frank won that contest, winning a full scholarship to IUP. Frank’s proactive art teacher, a caring person who looked out for his students, and winning that contest changed the course of Frank's life. The prize gave Frank the opportunity to study and graduate from college, receiving both his Bachelor’s and Masters' from the Indiana University of Pennsylvania. Those two degrees led to Frank’s tenure at North Allegheny as an art teacher for 40 years. It seems only fitting that Frank would become the kind of teacher he was, as he repaid the kindness and interest shown by his high teachers to his own students.
I wonder how many of us would have the fearlessness to put our 9-year-old child on a ship all alone for 12 days, even if it meant a better life for the child? Frank was so courageous, bound for a new land, where everything would be unfamiliar, including the language. Frank faced it all, married, and had a wonderful family. As a side note, I actually knew some of Frank's other relatives, since I was from Natrona Heights, a little town next to Brackenridge, PA, where Frank grew up. His brother Paul had a booming shoe repair business, and he fixed our family shoes for over 40 years. Another one of Frank's relatives was a band and music teacher at the local high school. Funny how one's life is always so intertwined with so many others. I feel so lucky that I knew Frank and his family, and that he left such a wonderful family legacy.
Throughout my 35 years and Frank's 40 years at the same school, we had many occasions to spend time together: lunch, hall duty, staff meetings, and hanging out together in the teachers' room. Frank was always so proud of his wife and children, and so appreciative that he was an American. In fact, Frank embodied the American dream.
Although I am not an artist, I have long admired Frank's work. Although many artists prefer just one genre, Frank was good at so many art forms. He was an excellent potter, jewelry maker, and painter. Frank inspired many students to go on to make art their life's work. I fondly remember hearing so many of my former students talk about Mr. Dileo's talent, and more importantly, about how Mr. Dileo was a great teacher who helped them to achieve things they never thought possible.
You see, a good teacher's influence never ends. Although Frank is gone from this earth, his teaching and inspiration live on through the lives of all the students and faculty members he touched. Rest in Peace, Frank. You were a wonderful friend and teacher.
"What a teacher writes on the blackboard of life can never be erased." Unknown
Visit Dede's web page for complete details on her award-winning book, STUDENT TEACHING: THE INSIDE SCOOP FROM A MASTER TEACHER. Many colleges have made the book required reading. Signed copies are available www.dederittman.com Dede is also a national speaker on The Three C's for Classroom success: Confidence, communication, and Creativity; Avoiding Teacher burnout; and many other inspirational topics.
I LOVE writing. And I love writing children's books- my newest passion. Although it will be a ton of work, I am looking forward to selling my books. Since I was a secondary teacher, I know that I have much to learn about elementary students, and I will have to follow my own advice and be my genuine self. However, I also know that I am passionate about helping kids who have to wear glasses, and that GRADY GETS GLASSES sends a positive message. I am willing to work hard and do all the things that also made me a successful teacher for 37
Teacher friends- let me know if you want me to read GRADY GETS GLASSES at your school. I am willing to come in to discuss the creative writing process, why writing is important, and personal fulfillment through writing, along with reading my book. I would appreciate the exposure, and I would make signed copies available for purchase in your classrooms following the reading. Please email me at email@example.com The website www.gradygetsglasses.com now has plush Grady bunnies for sale!
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