Learning Your Teacher: Mr. DePatto

Mr. DePatto
Mr. DePatto

Mr. DePatto, the Earth Science and Environmental Science teacher on the second floor, has been teaching for 34 years. He started out in private schools in ’79-’80, and then taught in public schools from the ’90s to the present. Always a lover of science, he’s taught everything from conceptual physics to oceanography (his personal favorite). Jacques Cousteau, the famed 20th century undersea explorer, inspired him to study ocean life through Couseau’s widely acknowledged television program. “The ocean is a whole new world, beneath the surface lies another world,” Mr. DePatto commented.

However, his initial drive was not to become a science teacher.  One thing that may not be known about Mr. DePatto is that he originally held off going to college, opting to instead head off to the workforce. During that time, he recalled, he felt a pang of envy toward his former classmates and close friends who attended college. In the end, he decided to attend the former Boston State College to earn a degree in education. “As a young person, I was very athletic, played team sports in high school and college, so my first goal was that I was going to be a teacher, a Phys Ed teacher, or a coach,”  Mr. DePatto said. His ambitions changed when he took oceanography electives in college, discovering a new passion. He thus changed his major from a physical education to science.

Earlier in his career, he would consistently volunteer at the New England Aquarium due to his passion for oceanography. “I used to work there behind the scenes, at the GOT, which is the ‘Giant Ocean Tank.’ You could get in there; you could feed the sharks and all the different specimens.  It was just a wonderful experience.” The sharks swam with the fish, he explained, and were specifically over-fed, in case an unfortunate viewer fell in. Moreover, behind the shining and pristine glass tank lies an immense amount of work that many visitors don’t see. “Behind the scenes you see how much work it is to make sure that tanks are clean, that specimens are safe. Water temperature’s important, acidity’s important, making sure that everything’s just balanced is a lot of work. I loved it there, absolutely loved it there, and if anybody wants to volunteer and see a different world, the people are great behind the scenes.”

Advice for high school students? “Kids going to college, it’s hard. Kids might not know what they want to do for college, so they’ll leave high school, they become a freshman in college, and sometimes they do know what they want and it’s great, but you have to stick to it because there’s gonna be bumps in the road, highs and lows.” He said that attitude is important, that if you want something, you have to work for it. “You have to set goals, and don’t let anything roadblock you.” He switched majors in college, and described that it was kind of difficult making a transition due to the extra new courses and more hard work. “But when you believe in something, and you love something, you know, [have] the passion and the desire, you must have the commitment with it, because if you don’t have that commitment before your passions and desires, those goals won’t be achieved.” His advice for high school students would be: talk to people, never say “no,” seek out the older and more experienced, never quit, always be relentless, and know that there’s always a way to obtain your goal. Although things might not happen right when you want them to, it’s important to keep pursuing your goals and dreams. “If you’re determined, you’ll find a way,” he remarked. In essence, if you want something and really aspire toward it, hard work and determination will get you there.

If you’re interested in volunteering at the NEA, a click HERE for a link to their website and information on how to get involved.

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