Tony Danza was everybody’s favorite taxi driver on the TV show “Taxi” and everyone’s favorite single dad and housekeeper on “Who’s The Boss.” Now the former boxer and Broadway star is also known for his books, including his newest, “I’d Like To Apologize To Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year As A Rookie Teacher at Northeast High.”
The book tells the story of Danza’s tenure as a 10-grade English teacher at Philadelphia’s largest high school. The yearlong journey was also the subject of his TV series “Teach: Tony Danza” on the A&E channel two years ago.
A single dad who divides his time between New York and Los Angeles, Danza will visit Connecticut on Sept. 20 to talk about his experience and his book courtesy of RJ Julia Booksellers in Madison.
With a couple of play and TV series projects in the works, Danza is still enthused and retrospective about his time as a teacher and what better time to Spill the Beans with Java then as a new school year begins?
Q: While reading the book, I was struck by how emotional you were, the breakdowns as you struggled with being a teacher and the demands. Did those emotions surprise you?
A: I was absolutely surprised how emotional I got although I am a bit of a crier. It was unbelievable. I think I had two stages of hysteria when I taught. There was that total fear that I would make a horrible mistake in front of people. There were days when I thought I had the greatest lesson plan and was going to make such a difference and then it didn’t happen. I think in the beginning I put too much pressure on myself and was making myself crazy. I was wondering if I was going to get my comeuppance. It’s a tremendous responsibility to be a teacher and I don’t think you understand until you are in front of the room and they are all staring at you. I felt like they only get one chance at 10th grade I have to make it happen.
Q: After that year and the discussion that seems to be never ending when it comes to education, do you think people still believe in public education? Is it still effective?
A: That is the question and there are factions that don’t believe it. I think that’s part of the push to privatization. I think we have to decide as a people if public education is worth the endeavor. These are America’s kids. We have to make a decision. I think public education is what made our country great. There was the time when no matter who you were or where you were from you went to the same school. Now there is a caste system. Know what the model of America is? E pluribus unum, out of many, one. You don’t hear that anymore. Now it’s “I got mine, what are you doing?” It’s crazy and the current culture doesn’t help.
Q: That said, tt would seem education reform is tied directly to politics. There have been suggestions you would run for office? Would you?
A: I did say something on a red carpet about running but I was not serious. I am not sure I could stand the scrutiny. But if I were running, my platform would be “e pluribus unum, we are in this together and until we remember that we hang together or die separately.”
A: In high school, biology. I graduated from college as a history major.
Q: What was the one piece of advice you wanted your students to walk away with after a year in your classroom?
A: Make school count. One day you are going to be 60 like me and regret it. No matter what the obstacles, no parents, poverty, violence, whatever, you have to have an education. The hard part is lecturing about how good behavior and hard work will pay off and then they go home and watch something like “Jersey Shore.”
Q: What grade would you give public education in America?
A: I am not in a position to give a grade. I wish I were an expert.
Q: You have been single for about a year now following your divorce. How’s that going for you?
A: It’s different, really different.
Q: Would you want any of your own children to become teachers?
A: I would want them to follow the occupation that is in their hearts. My oldest son is a chef, we wrote a cookbook together, and I have a daughter in the fashion business and another that is an arts major in college.
Q: Who was your favorite teacher?
A: Charles Messenger. He was my English teacher and produced the musical shows at our school every year. You could be in his class and he would transport you to Broadway. He had enthusiasm and you knew he loved what he was doing. He got it.
Q: What’s next for you professionally?
A: I’m trying to get “Honeymoon in Vegas” on Broadway and am in the very initial stages of a new TV sit com.
Q: What is something no one knows about you?
A: I play the ukulele and sing along. It puts my voice in a place I kind of like.
The event will be held at the Walter C Polson Middle School, 302 Green Hill Road in Madison at 7 p.m. Ticket information: conta.cc/QnNNCa
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