In my life

Former teacher never met a child she didn't like

Former teacher never met a child she didn't like

March 29, 2007|by GLORIA DAHLHAMER

Editor's note: This is the first in a series of profiles of area residents who share the stories of their lives and experiences. A profile will be published on the last Thursday of each month on the Young at Heart pages.

Adeline Domenici never met a child she didn't like.

In almost half a century of teaching Washington County youngsters, the 81-year-old Leitersburg resident still carries fond memories of her former students ... and funny memories, and nostalgic memories, and some memories of childish pranks she won't divulge "because those students are still around."

A 1948 graduate of Shippensburg University, Domenici came to Hagerstown with a fellow graduate who was seeking a teaching position in Washington County.

"I just came along for the ride," she says. "I never intended to teach here. I wanted to go back home to Petersburg, Pa. But the man at the board (Board of Education) said, 'Why don't you apply just for the heck of it.' So I did. And I was hired."


She taught history and civics to students in grades eight through 10 at what was then Williamsport Junior High School for two years. During that time she met her husband, the late Maurice R. Domenici, and in 1950 she quit her teaching job to get married.

"It was September," she reminisces, "and Maryland was playing Navy. I gave Maurice a choice. I said, 'You can go to the game or you can get married.' We got married."

For the next 10 years she stayed home and raised her son and daughter.

Then, she says with a smile, "Monsignor McGrath said to me, 'I need a fourth-grade teacher,' and so I went up to St. Mary's School and taught for the next 30 years."

She taught fourth grade for seven years, fifth grade for three years, and, finally, seventh- and eighth-grade history for the next 20 years. Former students will tell you she was good at it.

"When people are paying for their children's education, they expect you to produce," she says.

She once charted history from the Dark Ages to modern times, listing the important dates. Her students were expected to learn those dates and what they stood for.

Another time, she researched all the American Civil War generals and put their names in a box.

Students were told to draw a name from the box, study that general and then report on him.

"After that, I was known as the lady with the box," she chuckles.

When her classes were studying World War II, she had a student whose father served in the American armed forces in Germany and brought home a complete German storm trooper uniform.

"I had that student wear the uniform to school," she says. "He was blond and blue-eyed and looked the part. It was great."

She recalls student pranks, like the day a boy switched all of his classmates' brown bag lunches in the cloakroom. And the April Fool's Day when some students turned all the desks facing the back of the room.

"I outfoxed them,' she grins. "I wrote all the lessons on the blackboard and wouldn't let them turn their seats back around. They all had to stay after class. But that's what made teaching interesting."

Domenici taught many young people who now play prominent roles in the Washington County community. "I taught Lou Scally in fourth grade," she says of the WJEJ Radio personality.

When she retired from St. Mary's in 1990, she expected to sit back and take it easy. "But Paul Swartz called and said 'I need a tutor,'" and so began another 12-year career as a tutor for the Washington County Board of Education. She traveled to homes throughout the county where students were unable to attend school due to injury or illness.

"I learned a lot being in those homes," she says. "Some were great; sometimes I took my clothes off before I entered my own house."

Pizza parties

As her last day with each student approached, she asked them what they wanted for a treat. "They all said pizza. So on the last day, I took my pans and my dough and we made pizza."

The daughter of Italian immigrants, Domenici says of her childhood, "We were homebodies then. All the family ate at the table together, not in front of the TV." She recalls only one time in her youth when her family ate in a restaurant.

Her father came to America in 1905, "landing on Ellis Island with $1.50 in his pocket." Her mother followed five years later. "They never taught us Italian," she says. "They wanted us to be good Americans."

She and an aunt traveled to Rome in 1975 for the canonization of Mother Elizabeth Seton. They paired for another trip, to Israel in 2000.

"My religion means a lot to me," she says. "I've been to Rome and I've been to Israel, so now I'm a pilgrim in the church."

When she and her husband, Maurice, moved to Leitersburg 24 years ago, it was with the expectation that the community would soon have water and sewer service. That hasn't happened yet.

"They'll get water and sewer in heaven before they get it in Leitersburg," she laughs.

"A sense of humor, that's what keeps me going."

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