[ teaching & learning ]

The Rossis teach a lesson that counts

Oneonta TA members
molly belmont
From left, Oneonta TA members Michelle and Anna Rossi. Both teach math at Oneonta High School.
By Molly Belmont



or Michelle Rossi and her mother, Anna Rossi, there’s strength in numbers.

Anna is a math teacher and, growing up, Michelle used to beg to grade her tests and quizzes. “She always said, ‘You’re not going to understand any of it,’” Michelle recalls, laughing.

Now, this mother and daughter work side-by-side, teaching math in classrooms across the hall from one another at Oneonta High School, where Michelle was once a student.

“She never took any classes with me,” Anna teases. “She was in all the advanced classes.”

Recently, the Rossis sat down together to chat about teaching, math and family.

Anna has been a teacher for 37 years, 17 at Oneonta HS. “I always knew what I was going to do. I never had to decide,” she says. Her mother taught religious education, and Anna remembers sitting in the back of the room pretending to be the teacher.

This is Michelle’s second year teaching at the high school. She discovered her interest in math early, and while she briefly considered other careers, she kept coming back to teaching.

“I saw how loved my mother was by students, and I wanted to be that person in kids’ lives. I wanted to make a difference,” Michelle says.

Anna was not surprised by her daughter’s decision to teach. It was always clear to her that Michelle had a propensity for nurturing new skills. “She wanted to be around kids, to show people how to do stuff,” Anna says. “She was a lifeguard. She was teaching swim lessons.”

And while some might shy away from sharing so much of their time with family, for the Rossis, it works.

“I’m not her mother here — I’m her colleague,” Anna says.

“We have a good relationship in our teaching. We can agree on things. We can co-plan,” Michelle says. Since Michelle joined the staff, she has shared some fresh ideas with her mother about student development, and her mother, in turn, has helped bring her up to speed on the ins and outs of the profession. “We balance each other out,” Michelle says.

Balance is the first rule of algebra, the subject they both teach.

Other common denominators? Both graduated from SUNY Oneonta, and both live locally. They are also both active members of the Oneonta Teachers Association — Anna for 17 years, Michelle for one. Both coach volleyball, an activity they say has helped them connect with students, making them more inclined to listen in the classroom when the Rossis go into detail about linear equations or quadratic systems.

They also have similar teaching styles. “Like me, she’s an in-charge kind of person. She’s organized,” Anna says. “She’s efficient.”

“She’s just very stern,” Michelle says.

“Sure of myself,” Anna clarifies.

“Well, you’re always sure of yourself,” Michelle says. Anna laughs. “Some people are just made to be teachers.”

“It takes a certain person to be able to do it well,” Michelle continues. “I think we have that personality of being in control and being organized, and passionate about what we’re doing, and that’s important.”

“She’s much more well-spoken than me,” Anna says with evident pride.

Michelle demurs. “I just think we were meant to be teachers.”