Teacher Stories: Toni Sisia-Verissimo, Central Regional High School, AP Psychology and Sociology Psychology Elective

I have been a teacher for about 24 years. I was a double major at Georgian Court in Lakewood. One major was in history education. The reason why I majored in history was because my father was a teacher, and he ran a gun and antique business on the side with my mother, and he would bring in different types of guns from World War II or the Civil War, and I feel as if I’m wanted to share that with as many people as possible because it’s fascinating. I also majored in psychology. I feel I am blessed to be able to teach psychology, because there were things that I went through when I was younger that have positioned me to be able to help the kids in the future as a teacher.

For a short period of time my father drank, I’m now able to help kids in the class who have family members that are dealing with addiction. My father quit drinking cold turkey. What ended up happening was he just told us one day, ‘I’m not going to drink anymore.’ And he stopped. When I think of the word ‘strength,’ I think of my father. He was the epitome of that.

I never did drugs and I never drank and one of the reasons is because I saw how some of my family members dealt with addiction. So as a teacher, I want to be able to tell kids in the classroom, ‘You’re okay if you don’t drink or do drugs because when I was in the 80s growing up, everybody did that around me and I was a loner.’ I kept to myself because I didn’t want to do any of that stuff. So those kids in class that keep to themselves, I try to let them know they’re not weird.

I would say to people who feel lonely or are struggling in life in some way to have faith, and enjoy all he gifts around you. Whether it’s music, whether it’s the ocean, whether it’s bike riding, whether it’s hunting, you know, whatever it is. Look for those reminders in nature, of all the gifts we have all around us in life, because they’re all out there. They’re not just with nature, they’re also with people. They’re also animals, too. But all those reminders, they’re all out there. You just have to open your eyes to it, and it’s absolutely beautiful. And once you do it, it’s going to change the way you see life. It has for me, and I strive to help students see that for themselves.

Interview by Gregory Andrus

Portraits of the Jersey Shore

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