Most high school students have had Mr. Delgrosso as a teacher and cannot help but have been entertained by his humorous teaching style and apparent enthusiasm. He is notorious for his anecdotes of random adventures from his past. This inspired me to sit down and find out who Mr. Delgrosso really is besides a biology teacher because, believe it or not, there are more to teachers than just their professions.
Originally from Boston, Massachusetts, Mr. Delgrosso’s interest in biology was sparked at a young age by a show called Mutual Omaha’s Wild Kingdom. He became especially fascinated with birds because of their prevalence in nature and the fact that they are easily observed. He emphasized this point saying, “birds are just wonderful, beautiful things you can see everyday.” Even one of the first books he received was a field guide for birds. This passion led him to become something he is not as well known for being: an ornithologist. Despite his passion for learning about the biological world, he claims he wasn’t a standout student in high school. He got B’s in his biology class, and was not passionate about learning until graduate school. The Delgrosso we interact with today is not the same person that he was when we he was our age. If you have ever met Mr. Delgrosso, you know that he has an extremely boisterous and outgoing personality. This characteristic makes this comment even more shocking: “I was painfully shy. It took me years to break out of my shell. In high school, I did not say a word in class. But now,” he claims, “I’m the life of the party!”
Following high school, he went to the University of Massachusetts as an undergrad. He was then admitted to Columbia for graduate school, where he pursued the profession of teaching. When asked what inspired him to become a teacher, he replied, “Even when I was in high school, or even back to middle school, I respected and admired teachers. I didn’t at that time want to become a teacher, per se, but I did admire the profession and most of my teachers. My goal back then was to become a wildlife biologist and study animals somewhere, some romantic, exotic place.” He also considered becoming a professor and researcher, but that would have required a phD and he did not want to spend the next few years of his life pursuing that. He thought, “I just want to travel; I want to see the world; I want to work with animals,” and is that is exactly what he did. His favorite place he has travelled to is Haleakalā National Park as a park ranger, where he could interact with Hawaii’s native bird species. More recently, he travelled to Indonesia, where he trekked through the jungle and got to see impressive wildlife, including a wild orangutan, and interact with the unique culture of the area. He has travelled to many other exotic places, but Madagascar, New Guinea, Ethiopia, Alaska, Peru, and Brazil are still on his bucket list of destinations to visit.
Though he had a period of freedom and adventure, which included a position in the Peace Corps, he eventually settled into his first teaching position in the Bronx. Here he faced many challenging students and dealt with adversity of all kinds, including a particularly hostile student by the name of Demetrius Morgan. Morgan would go as far as smoking in class and even cursed out Mr. Delgrosso whenever he failed him because of his absences. Despite students like this, Mr. Delgrosso managed to remain positive and perseverant: “Most of the kids were fine. They wanted to succeed. They wanted to do well. But it’s that handful of Demetrius Morgan’s that keep you up at night and make the experience hellish.” The most valuable lesson he learned in the Bronx was patience, which he regards as a key characteristic to have when teaching: “I learned to control my frustration because obviously things don’t always go ‘a, b, c, d’ in a classroom, particularly in my early years in the Bronx when I had kids who were throwing pennies at me while I was writing on the board.” Today, when he feels his classes are veering off course, he, “takes it in stride”, which is very apparent to his students in his teaching.
After living in Los Angeles for a period of time, Mr. Delgrosso finally moved to Oklahoma. I myself wondered why he would move here, considering Oklahoma is not famous for its diversity of wildlife or beautiful landscape by any means, but Mr. Delgrosso was pleasantly surprised by our multiple species of birds. Because of Oklahoma’s central location, it is home to birds of all different environments and habitats of the United States. He has taken advantage of this and is a dedicated bird watcher, who even makes his own bird call playlists on Itunes. He landed a job at Casady as a biology teacher, where his students have had the privilege to learn his sometimes borderline obscure analogies to biological processes and listen to him go off topic and give his humorous yet valid opinions on many subjects. He believes teaching biology is important because, in his words, “Let’s face it, we’re all biological entities. I think people in general have some curiosity about themselves as biological, living entities.” Mr. Delgrosso does not hope we walk out of his class remembering every last detail of the material, but a basic understanding and an appreciation of the complexity of who we are. When asked what he wants his legacy to be at Casady, he gave an unexpected response: “Well, I would like to see a whale skeleton hanging from the commons area in Records. Right now the idea is being scoffed at because we just paid for a new building, but I would really like to see this area become decorated with science-themed fossils and skeletons. I honestly think we should fill up the science office with water and make that into a huge aquarium.”
Though his desired legacy may seem random and extravagant, I believe it reveals much more. It shows what he is truly passionate about and his constant attempts to influence people into seeing the beauty and complexity in what many consider ordinary. This is what makes him such a likeable and inspiring teacher. He loves what he does and tries to foster intellectual curiosity and passion within each of his students. Most importantly, he helps students walk out of his classroom with not only the knowledge of photosynthesis and DNA replication, but a sense of appreciation for the world as a whole.