At our La Crosse County Library branches we are privileged to have wonderful partnerships with our local schools. Many teachers make it a priority to regularly schedule library visits with their students. The author of the book I’m writing about readily admits to being one of those students who made such outings and all other things related to the classroom a challenge, as he recounts in his book, “I’d Like to Apologize to Every Teacher I Ever Had.

Shortly after his TV show was canceled and his marriage fumbled, well known actor Tony Danza embarked on a new direction in his life. With a degree in history and memories of a college dream to become a teacher, a dream he never quite lost, he embarked on what he called a “third act career” and contacted Teach for America. TFA concentrates on preparing qualified candidates for rural and urban teaching posts. Little did the folks at TFA know but Tony Danza was about to fulfill a long lost passion AND bring along an A & E television crew. It was because of his insistence on not injecting drama into the reality show that the show was short lived. However I am happy to report that Danza fulfilled his one year teaching commitment as a high school English teacher in the inner city of Philadelphia – a job he describes as the toughest he has ever had.

Danza’s mentor on the job was very helpful at alleviating his early jitters. An especially interesting revelation for him was how he viewed silence. As he tells it, silence for an entertainer indicates that the material has bombed. But in the classroom silence can be an indication of thinking, or working. Engaging the student became his new approach.

Danza was especially attracted to problem students, ones who acted just as he once did as a student in a rough neighborhood in Brooklyn. Soon he was challenged to see that kids of today have a set of different problems than he had experienced. In Danza’s day a troubled young man might have had his share of fistfights but no one had to worry about getting shot. He was a professional fighter after college, so it isn’t long before a punching bag is delivered to the school and impromptu boxing lessons begin. From boxing to Shakespeare, from the football field to a field trip to Washington, Danza is constantly on the lookout for ways to engage his students.

As a library worker, I hate to admit that I have never listened to an audiobook. But I did enjoy listening to Tony Danza read his own material. With his characteristic gravelly voice and New York accent, it was entertaining to hear his stories and observations. I think Tony Danza used every bit of passion and creativity (and let’s face it, some resources not typically available to the average public school teacher) to try to make a difference at Northeast High.

Come to your local La Crosse county library branch and let us try to make a difference in your reading, viewing or listening habits.

We have locations in Bangor, Campbell, Holmen, Onalaska and West Salem. Coming soon is our popular adult reading program, Hot Reads for Cold Nights, with participation gifts and a drawing for a gift basket at each location.

Leslie Duesenberg is a clerk at La Crosse County Public Library’s Holmen location.

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Coulee Courier and Houston County News editor

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