Mikey Davanzo, Newark, NY

For the Love of Reading

May 7, 2020 |
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This article is shared with permission from Newark Central Schools. It was originally published on their website here.

Like any educator, Mikey Davanzo has experienced some pretty amazing moments during her career as a reading teacher.

But nothing, in her nearly 13 years in the Newark Central School District as a reading teacher - the first 9 at Kelley School and the last, soon-to-be-four years at Perkins - rivals her remedial reading videoconference experience with six-year-old Perkins first grader Josyah Fagner April 24th.

Just before their scheduled virtual meeting time that day, Fagner’s mom, Angela Castillo e-mailed Davanzo informing her that her son, who so looks forward to their now thrice-weekly videoconferences and being prompt for them on “Google Meet,” would be momentarily delayed because nature had called.

“So, I am waiting and as he logs in, I look up, say ‘Hello’ to him like I always do, and see what appears to be a shower curtain,” Davanzo recalled. “I jokingly said: ‘I see a shower curtain behind you, you’re not still in the bathroom, right?’ Josyah laughed and said ‘No, I am getting my treatment!’’’

The reading teacher was momentarily taken aback when she realized the youngster, who was diagnosed at the age of four with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, was at Golisano Children’s Hospital in Rochester receiving monthly cancer treatment infusions and still wanted to keep his remedial reading appointment with her.

“Aww, Jo, you’re at the hospital and you still made time to do work with me?” she recalled saying as she held back tears.

“‘Of course, I wouldn’t miss it,’ he said as he chomped on his pizza in the hospital room. We then talked for a bit and read “Pig Kahuna” - a book about 2 pigs surfing.”


Hours later, Davanzo’s videoconference with Fagner was still was tugging on her heartstrings.

“It was absolutely heartwarming to me,’’ she recalled. “These last several weeks have been huge stressors on everyone in America, including our children. They were coming to school daily and suddenly life was flipped upside down for them, with no real warning. And to know that even in the midst of working from home and being quarantined, not only are your students and their families making those connections with you, but add in treatments for leukemia. And then to learn one of them is calling from his hospital room to still touch base and listen to you read a story, is huge! At the end of the day, his great smile, the giggles through the screen and knowing that even through all of the chaos in the world right now - including what this little boy has been going through - he chose to spend those moments improving his reading skills with me on Google Meet. This was one of those moments that make it all worth it!"

Since the Covid-19 shutdown March 17th, Davanzo has reached out to the families and students she has worked with from the beginning of the school year to arrange times to provide direct, videoconferencing instruction.

“Essentially, Josyah, or any student, can see me on their iPads and I can show him words, my white board, books, as well as present other information on a separate screen he may need to see,” she said. “It has truly been a great tool during this time for teaching staff. Josyah had been working with me daily since the end of September. We are currently working with each other 3 times a week for 20-30 minutes. These Google Meet sessions really give us an opportunity to see our students, work directly with them, but also have a bit of that emotional connection that we make with our students daily in school.”


Castillo, a direct support professional in Palmyra with the ARC Wayne, who said her son “struggles with reading” and needs the extra help, in part, because of his medical treatment he will be receiving monthly until January, is grateful.

“I told Josyah we’d bring his tablet (school assigned-iPad) to treatment and he was happy because he loves his time with Ms. Davanzo. She is so patient and really helpful. The only time he missed was when I got called into work” she said.

Fagner said he was happy to spend some of the three-hours at the hospital working on his reading with Ms. Davanzo.

“It was more fun.”

But the youngster said he doesn’t mind his hospital visits.

“I like going for treatment,’’ he said “I get to hug the nurses and sit on their laps. Sometimes I get chips and pizza.”

Castillo said her son normally plays video games or watches a video when he is receiving treatment, so he was really happy to spend some of this time working with Ms. Davanzo.

“He loves to read books. Every day he pretends to be a teacher reading to the class _ sometimes to his older brother, Jerimyah. He reads the words in the books or makes them up if he doesn’t know them by looking at the pictures.”

Interestingly, despite his love of reading, the first grader said he isn’t going to be teacher.

“I want to be a firefighter on Mondays; a truck worker on Wednesdays and a maintenance guy on Sundays,’’ he said April 27th.

Asked if he had any advice for his peers at Perkins during the shutdown. “Do your (school) work Please! You have to do your (school) work so you can learn.”

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