To keep her students on their toes, Ms. Donohue has reached out to the Peoria Ballet Academy to have a ballet dancer serve as a teaching artist in her classroom.

by Cecil Harris

“A good teacher can work anywhere in the country. Adelphi prepared me well. All the classes encompassed everything.”–Maryanne Donohue ’05, M.A. ’06

Will it play in Peoria?

That question gained prominence in the early 20th century among theatrical types who wondered if their act would appeal to audiences in mainstream America, and no city was thought to better represent mainstream America than Peoria, Illinois.

Maryanne Donohue, an Honors College and Scholar Teacher Education Program (S.T.E.P.) graduate from Merrick, New York, learned that her Adelphi University education prepared her to succeed in a mainstream American classroom after an unexpected move to Peoria.

“Adelphi definitely prepared me well for the process of teacher evaluations,” said Ms. Donohue, who is in her third year at Northmoor Primary School in Peoria. “Adelphi used the Charlotte Danielson system to evaluate us as student teachers. This past year, my school used the same system to evaluate the teachers. I was familiar with that evaluation. Adelphi had ingrained in me how to teach a lesson. I received a rating of excellent.”

After receiving her bachelor’s degree in English in 2005 and master’s degree in childhood education in 2006 from Adelphi’s Ruth S. Ammon School of Education, Ms. Donohue expected to teach on Long Island throughout her career.

“Long Island has so many great schools, but it’s very hard to get a full-time teaching job on Long Island,” she said. “I spent two years as a teaching assistant in Great Neck. I got teaching experience and had health insurance and a nice salary. But I kept hearing from people in the profession that I should get a teaching job in New York City and hone my craft.”

Thinking she would return to Long Island in two years, Ms. Donohue became a teacher at P.S./M.S. 108 in Spanish Harlem. The principal told her the neighborhood was exactly as it was depicted in the famed Broadway musical and film West Side Story.

Although Ms. Donohue never saw the Jets battle the Sharks in an alley or heard women resembling Natalie Wood or Rita Moreno sing from apartment windows, she learned Adelphi had equipped her to teach in a classroom in Spanish Harlem or anywhere else.

“In one class at Adelphi, we read Holler If You Hear Me: The Education of a Teacher and His Students, which is about inner-city Chicago; I referenced that book a lot because the author [Gregory Michie] was coming from the same place I was,” she said. “You have to work hard to earn the trust of underprivileged children. They’re so used to people saying they’re going to be there, and then they’re not. But once you get their trust, they’re really great.”

Ms. Donohue also bonded with Rob Ramirez, who taught gym and Spanish at P.S./M.S. 108. He became her fiancé. When he told her his dream was to become a college soccer coach, she agreed to take that adventure with him. When he became the women’s head soccer coach at Eureka College in Eureka, Illinois, in 2011, the couple moved to Peoria.

“A good teacher can work anywhere in the country,” Ms. Donohue said. “Adelphi prepared me well. All the classes, I felt, encompassed everything.”

In addition to her two degrees, she holds New York State certifications in childhood education, special education and English for high school students. She’s thankful to Adelphi Honors College Dean Richard Garner, Ph.D., and Associate Dean Diane Della Croce, Ph.D., for convincing the former pre-med student to switch to education.

“Maryanne is delightful and clearly a wonderful teacher,” Dr. Garner said.

“I’ve taught a different grade in each of my six years as a teacher,” said Ms. Donohue, who will teach fourth grade this year. “It keeps me on my toes.”

To keep her students on their toes, Ms. Donohue has reached out to the Peoria Ballet Academy to have a ballet dancer serve as a teaching artist in her classroom. The project is similar to the partnership New York City schools have with the New York Philharmonic, and serves as an example of how an Adelphi-trained teacher is playing well in Peoria.

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