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Staci A. Della-Rocco

Staci A Della-Rocco Teacher of the Year 2008

Inland Daily Bulletin Article 
05/15/2008
By Liset Marquez, Staff Writer 

RUBIDOUX - Staci Della-Rocco, a music teacher at Patriot High School, was named teacher of the year by Jurupa Unified School District during its meeting April 21. 
Della-Rocco is among three teachers who were selected to continue as participants in the Riverside County "Teacher of the Year" competition. 

Question: When did you realize you wanted to go in a career in higher education? 

Answer: I always knew I wanted to be a teacher (OK, or a veterinarian). When I was a student at Rubidoux High School, I was very active in the Vocal Music program. So, when I went to Citrus College I became a member of the Citrus Singers, a show choir ensemble. Even though I started out a physics major, my passion was music and eventually I realized I was taking many more music classes then science classes. 
On a performance trip to Europe with the Citrus Singers, I had an epiphany. We were competing at the Austria International Choral Festival and it just hit me that this was what I wanted to do with my life - bring the joy of music to the public. By the way, our group won that festival, the first time a group from the USA won. 

Q. When did you first become a teacher? Where was that and how was the experience? 

A. I became a teacher in 1983. I was offered two other positions in other districts but I wanted to teach at Rubidoux. Luckily, the vocal music position opened just as I finished  my degree and credential at CSU Fullerton. It was meant to be. 

Q. What is the most rewarding thing about being in education? 

A. The most rewarding thing about teaching is the effect you can have on a kid's life. I'm very fortunate that I teach a subject that allows a closer relationship to the kids. I have bonded with many students and I have several graduated students that I see on a regular basis. We meet for coffee or lunch to catch up. These former kids are now friends and I feel very blessed to still have them in my life. 

Q. What is the most challenging part about being in education? 

A. I want my students to know they can be successful at something. They won't all go to college or become the President of the United States (though one of them does aspire to the position) and that's OK. As long as they have a good work ethic and remember to be people of good character they can find success. 

Q. What are some of your personal goals you would like to achieve? 

A. My No. 1 goal is to survive cancer. I was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2002. I am still undergoing treatment. There are times when I feel overwhelmed with the demands of my job but at the same time I know that I am doing so well in my cancer fight because of my job. That may not make sense to a lot of people but to those who know me, it does. I love what I do, I love teaching, I love working hard to produce something the kids can take pride in and we can all be proud of. Without my kids and the support I have throughout my school district, I fear I may not have done so well through this cancer battle. I have a great support system through friends, family, my medical team and my caregivers. I have wonderful school parents too who show their support in so many ways. I have former students and parents that send cards, call me, pray for me, that show their concern for me with my health. It means a lot to me and I love them all for it. 

Q. Have you ever been recognized for other awards? If so, what were they?
 
A. One of the nicest awards to come my way recently (on top of the teacher of The Year for Patriot High School and for JUSD) was through the nomination of a current student Shelby Hancock. I was nominated and chosen to receive the Crystal Apple Award through Shelby's church. The seminary students at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints chose two teachers from our district and I am very honored to be one of them. I was also named a "Teacher Who Makes a Difference" in the Inland Empire Magazine in the May 2000 issue. Still, being chosen as Patriot High School's very first Teacher of The Year and then a district Teacher of The Year is amazingly wonderful and humbling. I am very touched by the honors. 

Q. What educator would you say has been the biggest inspiration to you and why? 

A. My high school music director, Don Morris, was of course a huge inspiration to me. I also was very inspired by many of my other teachers - Doug Huckaby, Alan Young, Barbara Duff, Ben Bollinger (my Citrus College music director) and my best educators - my parents. 


Q. What is something most people might not know about you? 

A. I'm pretty much an open book. My kids can talk to me about anything. I have an open door policy and many kids just need someone to talk to. Hopefully, I can help them or at least send them to the right person for help. My mother is a therapist and I ask her advice a lot about some of the things kids are facing. She is an excellent therapist and can always point me in the right direction. I am very grateful for her expertise and willingness to help. 

Q. What was your favorite subject in school? 

A. I had many favorite subjects in school. Of course I loved music but I also loved science and math. 

Q. What are you doing to make sure your students have the same experience? 

A. Music is a great teaching tool. You don't just teach "music." Hopefully I am teaching my kids discipline, dedication, responsibility, teamwork, commitment, concern for others, respect, courage to do the right thing and most importantly, to be people of integrity. I want my kids to be good citizens and make a positive difference in the world. Maybe some will use music as their vehicle to achieve these things while others find a different way - it doesn't matter how. The most important thing is that they find success and are people of good character. I hope they all have long, productive lives and if I can have any part in helping them make that happen then I have done my job and I have found my success.