Source: Daniel Oppizzi
Features

A Sit Down With Mrs. Curto

Martine Curto has been an influential teacher at Blind Brook for almost three decades. Her wit and enthusiasm help to set her classes apart from the typical high school period.

1.    How many years have you been teaching at Blind Brook High School?

This is my 29th or 30th, I don’t even know, I think it’s 29 or 30… something like that. Depends. I came in 85’, 86’ so, yeah, I think this is 30.

2.    What courses do you teach at Blind Brook? Which is your favorite?

Well…I teach…AP Euro, I teach Criminal Law and Global 1 and I’ve actually taught French here, believe it or not….I love them all. I like the drastic contrast from teaching ninth grade skill set….I love AP Euro because I can get into the real specificity of European history and the dynamics of the class is more discussion based and I love Criminal Law….I love the mystique of researching a case, looking at things from a different angle….I’m lucky because I get to teach three different courses that I really like a lot.

3.    What is your favorite part of teaching in general?  More specifically, what is your favorite part of teaching at Blind Brook?

The classroom. Definitely. The execution of the lesson everyday. That is by far my favorite. I get energized in the classroom. It’s just so much fun and you know what? After 34 years [of teaching] I can still say it’s so much fun.

4.   What is your pet peeve as a teacher?

A big pet peeve of mine is integrity….I really think that tells a lot about a kid, the willingness to uphold their morals, to reach that point where they start to compromise their morals and integrity. That’s a really hard one to get back once somebody thinks that you are a cheater. I try to, I really try very hard to emphasize that. Especially amongst [freshmen]…It really tells me a little something about the inner core of how competitive people really get that you would go to that length. So that is a pet peeve of mine. And I have visceral reactions if and when I ever catch anybody doing that.

5.   Do you have any nicknames given to you by students?

I always thought this was really interesting. Nobody calls me Mrs. Curto. Everybody just calls me “Curto”. It’s really funny and when I tell my friends that they’re saying, “Oh that’s so disrespectful,” and I say, “It’s really not, kids don’t mean it out of disrespect.” I just think it’s funny that the “Mrs.” was lost years ago.

6.  What are some of your hobbies?

I love photographs and scrapbooks and putting together picture books. That’s a big hobby of mine. I really, really, really like doing that. I also really love gardening. And (you’re going to laugh), for my 50th birthday, my husband at the time bought me a backpack blower. They look like ghost busters….I wanted one that if you put it down you could almost lift it right back off the ground….Every Sunday for about an hour, I backpack blow my driveway and I backpack blow my backyard. So, I don’t know how many teachers are going to tell you, but my biological kids laugh hysterically and my neighbors start laughing, “Oh, there goes Martine again, cleaning her driveway and cleaning her backyard with her backpack blower.”

7.   What is the funniest thing a student has ever done to you/told you?

I’m going back, like, fifteen years….There was a map in the front of my room….Right after school vacation, I think it was in February, and a student came to me and…he raises his hand and says “Hey Curto, that map is wrong.” I said “That map is wrong?,” he goes, “Yeah,” so I go, “Why would you think this map isn’t correct?” And he said, “Well, over the vacation we went to the Grand Canyon, we flew over it and when we flew over the Grand Canyon the pilot said to us, ‘We are over the Grand Canyon,’ and I looked down and it’s not purple. Arizona is not purple. Where the map says Arizona is purple, it’s not purple.” I didn’t know even how to react because I thought he was fooling around and I said “Well, I want to tell you that, not only is Arizona not purple but Texas isn’t pink either.” And he started laughing and saying “What?” so I said “No, the colors don’t represent the actual color of the state!”

8.  What do you think is the most important quality of a teacher?

To be human. I think you really have to be compassionate and human. And I think it’s funny because I can come across as tough…but I think, and I always say this, when I became a mother I became a better teacher. Because I put my own kid’s faces on my student’s faces. I think you become more compassionate and a little bit more understanding because teaching can be very frustrating sometimes so you have to be able to keep a human face and compassion. And you know what, sometime you have bad days and you’re a little short on patience but I really do think that when you show the kids that you care and they really believe that you care, you can be a good teacher. They have to know you care. I’m tough, but I’m tough because I care.

9.   Why did you decide to become a teacher?

It’s funny. You have to be careful about what you say about your mother because you become your mother. I did everything I could not to be a teacher when I first came out of school….My mother said to me when I was in college “You have to get your certification in teaching because you need something to fall back on if the business world is not good to you.” So, of course, I went into the business world just because my mother was a teacher and I didn’t want to be what my mother was. And I hated the business world with a passion, I needed something to fall back on and it was teaching because I had my certification. Once I hit the classroom, that was it, it was magic, that’s when I knew, “Why am I fighting this?”

10.  What is your educational philosophy?

My educational philosophy is [if] you work hard, you will be successful. I really do believe that. Success is measured very differently. Sometimes success for a student is passing a class. But for me work ethic says something about who you are as a person and it will really allow you to achieve and be successful.

About the author

Arianna Kohilakis