Rose Ciotoli is at her best when surrounded by her students.
The Grade 7 teacher at Annunciation School was raised by a family of educators, and the thrill of sparking a passion for learning is what drives and motivates her every day.
“The classroom is where I belong,” she said. “It’s where I feel most at home and comfortable and just that constant interaction and the rapport you develop with students is something I think I’d really miss if I were to step out of the classroom.”
A Rupertite born and raised, Ciotoli attended the old Prince Rupert Secondary School where her mother, Melita Stuart was a math teacher. Stuart had a reputation for being a firm but fair teacher who ran a tight ship and was completely invested in her student’s success.
“She understood and knew how to connect with the kids, and most importantly, she was dedicated,” said Ciotoli. “She would go into school on Sundays to support her Grade 12 math students who might be falling behind.”
Attending the school where her parent was a teacher was not always easy for Ciotoli as Stuart would always know what homework and assignments her daughter had. A lot of the things most kids would get away with was just not possible for her.
Once, Ciotoli recalled skipping a class with a group of friends to study for a test that was happening during the next period. Of course, Stuart caught them.
“Mom just walked by and shook her head,” Ciotoli said. “I think she thought if we were going to skip class we should at least leave the school!”
Ciotoli also played soccer for the city during those early years, eventually being chosen to play for an under-18 girls select soccer team that travelled to Hawaii in 2002 to play against American schools. She said that a lot of the players from those early teams still get together to play and have recently started playing in tournaments again.
“It was really nostalgic for us to be playing together again,” Ciotoli said.
Despite the challenges of being her mother’s student, Ciotoli said she was inspired by how great Stuart was at her job. Additionally, both her great-aunt and great-grandmother were teachers.
When the time came for her to leave Prince Rupert and study in university, Ciotoli knew she would only be pursuing one profession.
“I didn’t even know what I wanted to major in,” Ciotoli said. “I just knew that the end goal was to pursue teaching in Prince Rupert someday.”
Ciotoli studied history at the University of Northern British Columbia before returning to Prince Rupert in 2009. At the time, the city was still reeling from the mill closures and shrinking of the fishing industry, and while the port seemed to be set for growth, a future in Prince Rupert seemed far from certain.
“My husband and I had bought a house that we moved into, and we decided to give it five years in Rupert,” Ciotoli said. “We decided to stick it out and see what happens and 10 years later we’re still here.”
Ciotoli initially began as a substitute teacher in Prince Rupert before working on a one-year contract at Annunciation School. She said one of the most surreal moments for her was teaching in the same building where she had received lessons from her mother, while her mother was teaching down the hallway.
“The kids didn’t know who I was at first, but said I reminded them of someone,” Ciotoli said with a laugh. “By the end of the day they had figured out who my mom was and got a laugh out of it.”
In 2013, Ciotoli transitioned to working full time at Annunciation School where she has continued to enjoy developing her students’ growth. She recently organized a business fair for the school’s Grade 8s where they were able to develop a product, create a business plan and then sell their products.
Ciotoli said it is one of the most fulfilling things she’s done as a teacher
“Watching what the kids are doing, where they’re going and what they’re becoming is really rewarding,” she said. “It was great to see them develop an idea and turn it into something.”
Ciotoli said Prince Rupert is the place she sees herself continuing to teach for the foreseeable future. The community, the warmth and the ability to see the students grow into adults is something she wants to be a part of for years to come.
“You know people and you make connections,” she said. “It’s a great feeling when you walk down the street and you can talk to people because you’ve known them forever. It’s something really special.”