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. ••