“If it’s love that we give, then it’s love that we reap.”
Mary Louise Younglove Gesualdi, self-dubbed “abstract random,” a reading specialist teacher and Federal Programs coordinator has declared that she is “really retiring this time."
Mary has wholeheartedly served the Bristol Borough school communities for 50 years.
Her passion always showed up in the classroom and all could palpably sense her zeal for teaching.
“I love Mary Gesualdi," said Dr. Thomas Francis Shaffer, Ed.D., former Bristol Borough School District Superintendent. "She is absolutely amazing. Mary’s unparalleled and selfless dedication to the students of the Bristol Borough School far exceeded the expectations of any educator. Students, parents and staff were the benefactors of her tireless efforts to continually improve the quality of education in Bristol. Mary will be truly missed by everyone in the community.
Adds John D'Angelo, BBSD Board of Directors President/Treasurer, "The great thing about Mary is her ability to bring people together to get things accomplished.
"Throughout her career in the Bristol Borough School District, she has always recognized her role, and brought others together for a common purpose," he said. "It's impossible to quantify how much Mary has meant to all of the stakeholders in the School District, especially the thousands of students, whose lives she touched in a positive way. You could never, ever tell the story of Mary Gesualdi without leaving something out ... And therein lays the magic of Mary and her commitment to education. Her kindness, thoughtfulness, compassion and mindfulness will resonate in our school district for a long, long time.”
This Thursday's child has had far to go.
Her story starts with [what else?] … playing school on Beaver Street.
“I was the oldest kid on my block," she said. "We would play 'school' and I would use my brother’s green ping pong table for a chalk board and I would teach in my cellar. I was always the teacher. Some of my ‘students’ were the late Sandy Coffman and her sister, Danette, Becky Pettis, Tommy and Ellen Lucenti, and Kathy, Patty and the late Kenny Canfield.”
Mary is the youngest of the four children born to Arthur Deroy and Helen Rita Younglove, “Helen Mary, Arthur John, John Gerard and then me. My mom was 43 years old when she had me!”
She entered first grade at St. Mark School as the youngest in the class. “I couldn’t wait to start.”
Mary was in second grade when she had her tonsils removed, causing her to miss some school. “Phonics was being taught then, so reading was always a struggle for me," she said.
She did maintain perfect attendance from the 4th grade to the 8th grade.
“That’s how much I loved school!” she said.
Mary’s mother’s best friend was Mary Elizabeth Larrisey and her husband, Fenton Joseph Larrisey was Mary’s godfather. “Their friendship influenced my decision to be a teacher,” said Mary.
When Mary Larrisey taught in Trenton, she would visit at the Younglove’s home to chat and have coffee after her train ride back home every day from school. Mary would sit and listen to her stories about her classroom and her students. “I knew that’s what I wanted to do," she said.
In 1964, Mary started taking the train every day to Bishop Egan High School on the Levittown Parkway because there was no busing in Bristol Borough. “My brother John was graduating as I was starting," she said. "It was so overcrowded we had classes on the stage.”
Halfway through her sophomore year, the boy students left for the new school on Wistar Road, and the girls’ school then became known as Bishop Conwell.
Mary’s junior year was a pivotal year for her. Her father, a Rohm and Haas foreman who worked with formaldehyde passed away from emphysema AND she was scheduled to take her PSAT.
“The PSAT results came in and one of the Sisters called each of us in one-by-one to review the scores," said Mary. "The Nun asked me what I wanted to be and I told her I always wanted to be a teacher. She said, 'You’ll never be a teacher with these scores.' This and the same year I lost my Dad."
“If we want a garden, we're gonna have to sow the seed…”
“As mad as I was, she probably did me a huge favor," continued Mary. "I buckled down to do better because I was so determined to prove her wrong that I turned everything around. I went from worrying too much about my social life – to buckling down and working hard on my grades. I got honors senior year.”
She joined the Future Teacher’s Club and she was elected president her senior year.
In 12th grade, she also met her future husband, Mark Louis Gesualdi at an Edgely Fire Hall Dance.
“I fell in love,” she said.
The Sister’s admonition about her PSAT scores had made Mary very nervous about College, so she stayed close to home and attended BCCC, declaring an early childhood and elementary education major. “I loved it there and graduated with honors with an Associate of Art Degree in 1970.”
Her boyfriend, Mark had begun at West Chester majoring in music before he joined the Army National Guard. So, then Mary made the decision to apply for a teaching position at St. Ann School while she continued her education at Trenton State at night.
“I got the job, teaching third grade," said Mary. "I had 52 students in my first class. Sister Ignatius, the Principal, gave me a box of chalk and a blackboard eraser. If you wanted anything else, you had to get it yourself.”
She spent most of her salary on art supplies and library books for the classroom.
“Plant a little happiness; Let the roots run deep……”
“Mary taught me in 3rd grade and we have been bonded ever since," shared Langhorne resident Mary Ann Fennessy Dubus. "She was my sponsor when I was confirmed. She is truly one of my best friends. There could never be a more dedicated teacher who truly loves all of her students. She's one of a kind."
“Knowing what I know now, and in reflection, she was one of the best teachers I ever had because she had the ability to teach each one of us differently," said former Major League infielder Jeffrey Paul "Jeff" Manto, the 2011 Bristol Borough Fall Classic Person of the Year.
"Yes, there was a theme and a lesson to be taught and learned, but she had a special knack for teaching each of us in our own unique way of learning," said Manto. "Again, looking back, she was way ahead of her time. She made learning so much fun with her creative ways of teaching. She performed well and she actually made us perform to get us out of our comfort zones! Without question, the best kickball pitcher ever.”
One of Mary’s Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey) professors was Ms. Gwendolyn Jones, born in Lancashire, England, who is one of the icons of the storytelling community in the state and nation.
“I had my first children’s Literature course at Trenton State, taught by Ms. Jones from England," said Mary. "She was a consummate professional who was an expert in storytelling and children’s books. She stressed the importance of reading aloud to children. This course sparked my interest in children’s literature and reading.”
After working at St. Ann for four years, “I loved the kids and my experience there”, she started with a sub position at Warren Snyder in 1974. “I taught Open Space kindergarten for two years with Lead Teacher Carol Mignoni Ferguson. In 1977, I graduated with my M.Ed. in Reading and was hired in 1978 as a reading specialist for the BBSD and that has been my niche.”
She was selected for membership in Kappa Delta Pi, TSC honor sorority in education, that same year.
Mary Younglove and Mark Gesualdi were married Nov. 25, 1977, the Friday after Thanksgiving in a beautiful candlelight ceremony at St. Ann Church.
“My greatest gift was the birth of my daughter Christina Marie on July 19, 1985 [35 years ago]!” says Mary.
Mary earned her Supervisor’s Certification in 1979, and in 1980, she became “Reading Coordinator” at Snyder-Girotti School. Two years later she was hired as the Federal Programs Coordinator/ Reading specialist. She then earned her Principal’s Certificate from TSC in 1986.
“I am all about the kids. It is my top priority," said Mary.
November 19, 1999, Mary was the recipient of the “Outstanding Service Award” honoring outstanding educators for their efforts on behalf of the Bucks County Intermediate Unit.
Working with Title 1 financial assistance, Mary arranged for staff development.
Professors from U of PA’s Penn Literacy Network provided high quality professional development for the staff right at Warren Snyder. “This is where my next huge influence comes in: Dr. Jack McGovern, an expert in children’s literature," said Mary. "He was a huge influence.”
This brilliant, inspiring worldwide expert in children’s literature advocated “match the right book to the right child”. Mary’s aspiration was to know as much about children’s books as he did.
“Through my career I made it my goal to promote quality books and to match the right book to my student’s interest,” said Mary.
Mary became a member and was elected to the now disbanded Bucks County International Reading Association and she served as President and Vice President from 1997 to 1999.
“In May of 1998, I was invited to speak at the 43rd International Reading Association Annual Conference, in Orlando, Florida. The topic was 'Conceptualizing, Implementing, and Researching Schoolwide Assessments Using Written Retellings.'" She was honored to speak with the late world renowned Dr. Morton “Mort” Botel, an originator, an innovator and architect of a magnificent methodology for the processes of reading and writing, and his daughter, Dr. Bonnie Botel-Sheppard, both from the U of PA.
Mary is the President of the grass roots all volunteer Academic Oversight Committee [AOC] and a member of the steering committee of the Bristol Fall Classic. AOC was established in 2010 by the Grundy Foundation, which serves as its fiscal monitor. In true Mary Gesualdi fashion, she humbly accepted her place as one of the honorees at Bristol Fall Classic 2012, along with four Bristol educators: the late Kenneth F. 'Mr. B' Bachman Sr., Carol Mignoni Ferguson, Joseph Franceschini, and Karen Pezza who was named the AOC Person of the Year. Each proudly accepted an American Flag that had flown over the U.S. Capital, presented by the beloved late Congressman Michael Gerard “Mike” Fitzpatrick [1963 – 2020].
“The highlight of my career came in 2018 when I was asked to serve as the Honorary Grand Marshal of the Bristol Christmas Parade,” said Mary. Mark drove his wife and daughter in Mary’s 2018 convertible black Mercedes. “My husband and daughter drove me in the parade and I was followed by a BBSD school bus holding my students, nieces and great-nieces," said Mary. "The banner on the side of the bus said it best – 'Mrs. Mary Younglove-Gesualdi – My students are the key to my success!'”
At a recent school assembly, Dr. Rose Minniti had referred to Mary as the “Last Warrior Standing” with her 46 years teaching in the District plus her four years at St. Ann School for a grand total of 50 years.
“I retired for the first time in June of 2009, very reluctantly, but was overjoyed to be asked back as a part time consultant 2 days a week to serve as the Federal Programs Coordinator and as the reading specialist serving the students at St. Mark. Teaching and working with the kids is my favorite part of the day.”
The Title I staff of Dawn DeLuca, [math], and Kristin Faight, and LaToya Sahm,[reading] made coming back a pleasure for her. “I work with some of the finest, most dedicated teachers in Bucks County.”
“For Mary, literacy is a passion that extends far beyond the classroom. We are grateful that she has shared her love of education and learning with the students of Bristol for all of these years. Although we will all miss her both personally and professionally we wish her much joy and happiness in her retirement,” confirmed Dr. Rose Minniti, Ed.D, BBSD superintendent.
Even COVID-19 couldn't squelch Mary’s enthusiastic educational edge.
“I survived quaran-teaching with my 20 reading students from St. Mark School. I did it the old-fashioned way, “old school”, and delivered lessons to their homes every two weeks, along with books to read and goodies to eat. It has truly been my pleasure, my love and my passion to work with the students and teachers of Bristol Borough.”
Love is her mantra. She savors all the little milestones that dot the academic calendar.
So, this is probably not a goodbye, it’s most likely just a see ya later.
“Let us take on the world while we're young and able…And bring us back together when the day is done…”
Italicized song lyrics from “Crowded Table” by The Highwomen quartet
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