St. John’s a Second Home in Trying Times,
When Annette M. Calcagni-Sperandio ’06Ed, ’08GEd was a senior in
high school, the often difficult decision of choosing a college was
ironically made easier when she received the heartbreaking news
that her father had been diagnosed with cancer.
“I was beyond close to my father, so I refused to go far away from
him,” said Annette, a native of Bellmore, NY. “St. John’s
University was the perfect fit. I couldn’t think of a better school
for me.” Making her decision even easier was the fact that her
family had multiple ties to St. John’s, as her brother, aunt and
uncle all went to the University.
Annette entered The School of
Education that fall. As her father’s condition worsened, it
became clear that she had indeed chosen the right school. “My dad
went into the ICU on New Year’s Day and we knew he wasn’t coming
home,” she said. “I remember sitting in Dr.
Brett Elizabeth Blake’s class a few days later and I was just
numb. I went to her and told her my dad was dying. She looked at me
and said, ‘You do what you need to do. This will all be here for
As he was losing his battle with cancer, Annette’s father made her
promise that she would keep up with her studies at school. When he
finally succumbed to the disease, she kept her promise to him and
quickly returned to the University. “St. John’s became a second
home to me during one of the most difficult times in my life,” she
said. “Every professor worked with me to help me get back on track
when I returned.”
Among the most supportive of her professors was Dr. Blake. “It was
her warmth and unfailing effort that helped me continue with the
coursework while I was grieving the death of my dad,” she said.
“She taught me what it meant to be understanding and compassionate
to a student who is going through a hard time. She really inspired
Her close bond with Dr. Blake continued through graduate school, as the
professor became Annette’s thesis instructor. “The time and
dedication that she put into my paper was uncanny,” said Annette.
“She is truly an asset to the St. John's community.”
Today, Annette is a tenure-track English teacher at Massapequa High
School, where she has quickly become part of the fabric of the
school. In addition to her responsibilities in the English
department, she serves as Drama Advisor and Co- Founder for the
school’s chapter of the International Thespian Honor Society.
Inspired by the Vincentian tradition at St. John’s, she has also
led several service learning projects with her students, including
St. Baldrick's and the Invisible Children Foundation. “I’ve always
been involved in service,” said Annette. “The whole Vincentian
mission is about helping somebody else. That’s really what teaching
is about – teaching the next generation to do better.”
“At St. John’s, “I learned above all, that teaching is about more
than just lecturing to a class,” she said. “It’s about growing and
learning from each other.”