Diane Ferrucci always wanted to be a teacher. Her dream came true and she has been a passionate educator in the Benicia and Fairfield schools for more than forty years.
One of the biggest changes in education she’s observed is a boom in creativity: new teaching strategies, collaborative curriculum development, ground breaking technology, and alternative learning environments that support multiple learning modalities in ways they never did before. “I’m excited that the art and science of teaching has come back into our schools,” says Diane. “Our students are doing extraordinary things.”
We had an opportunity to interview Diane, and here’s what she says about her life and work in Benicia.
BM: Please tell us how you came to be an educator?
DF: I have always wanted to be a teacher. I had a 5thgrade teacher, Mrs. Fagan, who I will never forget. She made learning fun and always had a way of making us feel important and successful. That’s what I decided I wanted to do for kids. I wanted to give children rich, meaningful experiences that they would always remember.
BM: You’ve worked in the field of education a long time. What are some of the most important changes in education that you’ve experienced during that time?
DF: I began teaching in Connecticut when there was no specific curriculum to follow. Over time I taught through many different standards and testing for the underperforming school program, No Child Left Behind, and intervention. One of the most important shifts is that the education system now acknowledges that early intervention and support for students makes a difference. There is a focus in our district on early learners with a goal to have them all reading at a certain level by third grade. Students need to be able to read in order to access information, then they can truly do amazing things!
Technology is big in the Common Core standards, and that can be a challenge. However, teachers have much more latitude now and resources to address multiple modalities.
BM: What main initiatives have you supported as a Trustee of the BUSD?
DF: There have been many. Probably the most important has been the technology push for our district. I was shocked to see how far behind Benicia was from other districts. How can teachers do what is asked of them without the tools and training to be successful? We have very bright, talented educators in our district, but in order to meet the changing needs of students we must provide better resources and support.
Another focus was to shift programs at Liberty High School. I am so very proud of that school. The administration and staff are providing some awesome experiences to our students. The attitude about Liberty has changed, and that was my goal.
Also, I have been very involved in strengthening the district’s connection with the city. There is a liaison committee comprised of city and district staff and elected officials that meet regularly. We have nurtured a great relationship with our local police, fire, and city leadership, as well as local businesses. This has created lots of new avenues for career choices for students through internships and mentorship. In addition, the liaison committee has collaborated on a city-wide safety plan, and other important initiatives. It takes a village, and that’s what we are.
BM: If you could change anything in our schools for the better, what would it be?
DF: The budget angst. The district from staff to leadership, including parents and students, have wonderful ideas that would be great for students. At times, it can be very discouraging when we have to choose. Of course, this topic is much bigger than us. It goes to how districts are funded from both state and federal levels. Declining enrollment impacts our budget as well.
BM: We understand that long time trustee Gary Wing is stepping down. Would you like to share some thoughts about Gary?
DF: Gary is an amazing board member and will be greatly missed. His love and dedication to the students and district was seen by all. He was everywhere and always willing to help. Gary was my mentor when I first came to the board. With him, we made a lot of changes to support our district. I will always be grateful to him for his service to children. I wish him the very best, and he will be missed.
BM: What is the Board looking for in a new candidate?
DF: I am hoping to find a person who is focused on providing the best education possible for our students. The board chose to do a special appointment instead of a special election. This has been done before with other board openings. Applications have been submitted and the interview and appointment will happen on August 1stat the Benicia Unified Board meeting, fulfilling Gary’s term ending 2020.
BM: What are you looking forward to in the new school year?
DF: We have new staff and leadership coming on board this fall. The middle school will be a focus, with their new campus and staff changes. With campus changes, students will have more outdoor learning opportunities and will be able to move around more freely, while also increasing safety. My goal is to be sure BMS has the support they need to be successful.
One of Diane’s visions is to build awareness in the community about the innovative work happening inside and outside of our classrooms. To learn more, please follow Benicia Unified School District’s Facebook Page. [Each campus also has its own Facebook page.]
In addition, BUSD now has its own App that gives you an inside look at what’s happening in the district. Download the “Benicia Unified SD” App from your App Store.
For an update on Measure S, please visit: https://beniciaunified.org/measure-s/