Tony Danza visits Fox Chase for Read Across America

  • Turning the page: Kevin Boyle and Tony Danza (right) read to children at Fox Chase Elementary School on March 5. WILLIAM KENNY / TIMES PHOTO

  • Turning the page: Kevin Boyle and Tony Danza read to children at Fox Chase Elementary School on March 5.

Fox Chase Ele­ment­ary School teach­er Kate Grugan doesn’t con­sider Dr. Seuss one of her fa­vor­ite chil­dren’s au­thors. For­tu­nately, most of the school’s first-graders seem to think the same way.

In fact, dur­ing the school’s Read Across Amer­ica Week activ­it­ies on March 5, it was pretty tough to tell who was the big­ger hit among the young­sters. Fam­ous act­or Tony Danza got an en­thu­si­ast­ic re­cep­tion when he showed up to read for about 80 pu­pils in the school’s lib­rary. But the kids went de­li­ri­ous when Danza star­ted wav­ing around a gi­ant pic­ture book about di­no­saurs.

Danza offered to read a Seuss book in­stead, but the first-graders wanted no part of that. And state Rep. Kev­in Boyle, a guy who vis­its Fox Chase Ele­ment­ary every year to read books, didn’t mind play­ing second (or per­haps third) fiddle for awhile.

“In pre­vi­ous years, I did it my­self, but the kids were fall­ing asleep,” Boyle joked as Danza made a show­man’s en­trance. “So they brought in the big guns.”

Danza is no stranger to loc­al schools, either. He spent the 2009-10 aca­dem­ic year teach­ing Eng­lish at North­east High as TV cam­er­as filmed his ex­ploits for the series Teach. Al­though the pro­gram las­ted just sev­en epis­odes, Danza re­mained in­volved at North­east and still helps pro­duce an an­nu­al teach­ers vs. stu­dents tal­ent show. This year’s show will be on March 20 in the North­east High aud­it­or­i­um and is open to the pub­lic. Pro­ceeds will be­ne­fit school pro­grams.

Danza stopped by Fox Chase Ele­ment­ary at the in­vit­a­tion of Prin­cip­al Rob Caroselli, who served as an ad­min­is­trat­or at North­east High for six years and was the school’s co­ordin­at­or for the Teach pro­ject.

“My whole feel­ing is that we have to try to con­vince the kids that it is in their in­terest to take ad­vant­age of this time that they’re in school,” Danza said. “It’s [a short peri­od] of their lives and it will in­form the whole rest of their lives. So I’m try­ing to con­stantly get that mes­sage across that this is im­port­ant and — counter to what they’re hear­ing from the cul­ture at large — edu­ca­tion is the only way to se­cure that life that we’re all hop­ing for.”

At just 6 and 7 years old, the Fox Chase stu­dents prob­ably nev­er saw Taxi, Who’s the Boss or even Teach, but Danza’s play­ful antics and en­er­get­ic de­liv­ery made him an in­stant star, any­way.

“I had a great child­hood be­cause of teach­ers and schools,” the 63-year-old act­or said. “I was in the first grade it seems like just yes­ter­day and now I’m an old man.”

Even Boyle got in on the act.

“Har­ris­burg is just like this,” the law­maker said dur­ing a par­tic­u­larly rauc­ous game of “sev­en up.”

Later, Boyle di­gressed in­to a more ser­i­ous top­ic, the de­bate over pub­lic school fund­ing. He thinks Har­ris­burg should com­mit more money to schools.

“Tony is here be­cause he wants you to have a bet­ter fu­ture and I as your state le­gis­lat­or want you to have a bet­ter fu­ture,” Boyle told the chil­dren. ••

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