Geometry teacher: Success is all in the mind

Published: May 23, 2007 | 6234th good news item since 2003

In Joe Monachino Sr.’s geometry class, it’s not just about recalling that the square of the hypotenuse of a triangle is equal to the sum of the squares of its sides.

Beyond theorems and number-crunching, he said he’s trying to teach a logical progression of thought that geometry provides.

“Our job is to get them to think,” said the St. Pius X High School teacher. “It’s about process, it’s not about answers.”

Monachino was recently awarded the Christa McAuliffe Pioneer in Education Award from the Northland Regional Chamber of Commerce after his 47 years of teaching experience, most of it at St. Pius X and North Kansas City High School.

“It’s been a good run,” Monachino said.

He said part of the reason he’s been teaching so long is because of other roles he has served, including assistant principal, school disciplinarian and coach of sports, including football and basketball.

The award means more to him than his election to the Missouri High School Football Coaches’ Hall of Fame, which he said was an honor shared among many people who helped him along the way.

While many had a role in his development as a teacher, he said he felt this was a recognition of a more individual effort.

As society changed all around him over 50 years, he said children remain basically the same, even with new distractions like cell phones and iPods.

“The kids really don’t change at the ages of 14 to 17,” he said.

That said, he remembered asking one of his classes this year why their grades were lower than all his other classes. Their answer? He said they couldn’t focus as much on academics because they were more “social” than their counterparts.

After teaching more than 40,000 people, he said he just hopes to have some impact on their lives.

He recalled a champion pole-vaulter caught smoking years ago.

Back then, if you were caught smoking or drinking, you didn’t play, he said.

“He never made a fuss,” while serving his suspension, Monachino recalled.

Monachino remembered thinking the policy was a little strict, but years later he met the pole vaulter in a grocery store.

“I just wanted you to know, I don’t smoke anymore,” he remembered the athlete telling him.

Sophomore Frank Orallo said Monachino is probably the best teacher he’s ever had, saying his years of coaching give him an ability to relate to people.

“It’s just his personality,” Orallo said. “He’ll apply that to his teaching.”

Monachino has been teaching so long that his son, Joe Monachino Jr., is now his boss — the principal of St. Pius X High School.

The younger Monachino, who came on as principal after his father was already on the staff, said his father’s passion led him into a career in education.

“He’s definitely the reason why I do what I do,” he said.

Father and son say there isn’t any strangeness about the situation.

“It’s completely different inside and outside the building,” said the elder Monachino, who admits he calls his son “Mr. Monachino” at school.

Monachino, 70, remembered thinking that this would be his last year of teaching going into it.

“I’m going one more year,” he said. “I can’t think of anything I would enjoy more.”

Published in Teachers
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