Nothing gives kindergarten teacher Chris Arcangelo more pleasure than being surrounded by young children who bring wonder and joy into her world.
“I absolutely love children. They’re innocent, wonderful and kind. You never know what to expect. You just can’t imagine,” Arcangelo said.
Hers is a story of a segue from executive secretary to stay- at -home mom then later to professional storyteller and teacher’s aid at Abington Heights Middle School.
“Everyone used to say, ‘Why don’t you go to school and become a teacher?’ So one day, I said OK and quit my teacher’s aid job. I attended Marywood College where I received my B.S. in elementary education and a minor in early childhood.” Arcangelo explained.
From there, things blossomed naturally. Monsignor John Louis asked Arcangelo if she’d like to be St. Gregory’s Early Childhood Center’s kindergarten teacher. That was 17 years ago. And she’s still embracing every moment. She claims children keep her young, alert and give her lots of energy.
Arcangelo gives her job one hundred percent, if not more, and she feels strongly about helping children grow and develop at their own pace.
A typical day means arriving at school at 8:30 a.m. Work starts with cleanup drills.
“I’m a fuss pot about that. The children know I like things organized and that everything has its place. The room is very exciting, too, because I hang up their pictures and they feel really special.”
Art isn’t the only subject in the children’s daily routine. Youngsters enjoy math, phonics, science, music and gym. “They’re busy until dismissal at 2:30 p.m.,” said Arcangelo.
Arcangelo’s philosophy is simple: make sure kindergarten students learn to love school because they’re having so much fun.
“Right now, we have caterpillars waiting to become butterflies,” said Arcangelo, “when lucky enough, and we usually are, kids watch as the butterflies emerge, chrysalis, is what it’s called. It’s unbelievable and pure amazing to watch the children learn.”
Other activities on her agenda include Earth Day cleanup where the children wear old clothes and gloves and pick up garbage on the grounds.
Other memorable events for her: the end of year school shows and Christmas Shows. “The Kinderkids are absolutely astonishing.”
Students vote twice each year. Arcangelo feels strongly about children learning the process of government at an early age. And there’s always the tour which usually takes place at the beginning of the school year.
“We tour Gerrity’s supermarket, PNC Bank, the Clarks Summit post office, the firehouse and have lunch at McDonald’s so they can learn about the community in which they live,” Arcangelo said.
Arcangelo has many philosophies, one of which is that children are children no matter where you go in the world. What’s different, she claims, is to what they’re exposed.
“I only want them to be beautiful, kind human beings. That’s what I expect of them.”
Sometimes Arcangelo is not only party to that growth in character development. She witnesses the amazing: the little girl whose voice is beautiful as she sings songs from Les Miserables for the class and the group effort made when one little boy was left on a school bus for three hours.
“We wrote a book about him. The children in the classroom drew a picture about their friend and what they thought he experienced.” Arcangelo still wants to see that collaboration published as well as her notebook of all the unique, cute, insightful things the children say to her on a day- to -day basis.
“One little girl said to me ‘If you want to be a friend act like one.’ I still have that one on my wall for the past seven years. It never ceases to amaze me,” said Arcangelo on her student’s awareness of themselves, the world around them.
Arcangelo is blessed to still hear from former students as far away as Florida, New Jersey, Connecticut and Wisconsin. “I just want them to remember this experience with love,” she summed up.
The Clarks Green resident is married 43 years to John, a former high school Math teacher who is now an adjunct teacher at Keystone College. They have three children: John, Amy and Karen and five grandchildren: John, Maia, Sara, Annabella and Christopher.