Janice Mastropietro’s first and only teaching job began at Villa Maria Academy more than two decades ago — and in July she was named principal of the Northeast Bronx school.
For Mastropietro, it was a dream come true – she has loved education since she was a child. The “Villa,” a coeducational Catholic elementary school located in the Country Club section of the Bronx, has become her second home over the years. She lives a few blocks away, has sent her two daughters to school there, and has seen countless students return with stories of success in high school, college, and beyond.
“When I got the manager job, my mom and dad were like, ‘Now you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be,'” she told the Bronx Times.
Mastropietro, 60, grew up in the Pelham Bay neighborhood of the Bronx and attended PS 71 on Roberts Avenue. His father Silvio Caserta was born in Italy and operated a painting business in the Bronx. However, neither his father nor his mother – Marie Caserta – went to college. Nevertheless, they have always stressed the importance of education for their daughter.
Mastropietro fell in love with the classroom in her youth and was captivated when she discovered the thousands of books in the local library.
“I’ve always loved school,” she says. “I was the kid in August who got excited when it was time to buy school supplies.”
Mastropietro went to Preston High School in Throggs Neck and eventually became the first in her family to attend college when she graduated with an English degree from Queens College in 1986.
However, she did not go straight into teaching. Around the age of 24, a friend of her father’s who owned Castle Oil, a private oil company, asked her if she could replace her for a few weeks as an executive assistant.
She ended up staying there for 12 years and became vice president of corporate planning. Mastropietro excelled in the business world, but after having her second daughter, she knew it was time to enter the teaching field.
“Twelve years have passed and I said it was time to go back to school,” she said. “I said, ‘If I ever have to, it’s now.'”
Mastropietro landed a role–teaching time at Villa Maria on September 10, 2001, beginning just a day before the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center. She said it had a huge impact on her career as an educator.
“It had a very powerful effect on my teaching because I instantly learned something that many teachers don’t learn for a long time: children can only learn if they feel safe,” he said. she stated. “This catastrophic event that happened in our own backyard has forced me to prioritize the child over education, and has also made me appreciate every day that we are at school. and spending an ordinary day together. In fact, there is nothing ordinary about “normal” days; they are each an incredibly special gift from God.
A year later, she landed a full-time role as a middle school English teacher. While teaching, she also earned a Masters in Childhood Education in 2005 from the College of New Rochelle. Her role as an educator also expanded when she became the campus ministry leader in 2014.
According to Mastropietro, her goal has always been to become a director. With her business background and love for education, she was prepared for the role. So, in 2016, she earned an additional master’s degree in administration from St. John’s University and waited for her dream job.
She was offered other senior positions within the archdiocese, but felt her time would come at Villa Maria.
“I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Mastropietro said.
In the winter of 2021, Teresa Barton, nun and director at the time, announced her retirement as director of Villa Maria and the opportunity was finally here. Mastropietro applied, interviewed and was hired – officially starting the role on July 1.
Some people may have thought she was crazy to wait so long for the job, but that was where she belonged, Mastropietro said. She told the Bronx Times that she wasn’t sure her career would have turned out the way it did if she had come to teach right out of college.
Since becoming director, Mastropietro said there was never enough time in the day for everything. She is in classrooms all the time and constantly talking with parents, but she knows she is shaping lives for the future, which brings her so much happiness.
“This is my home,” she said. “I didn’t mind being here after hours. I have to take care of these children as if they were my own children. Sometimes I look around me and I can’t believe it.
Contact Jason Cohen at [email protected] or (646) 899-8058. For more coverage follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes