Lifelong Bronxite finally lands dream job as principal at Villa Maria Academy

In July, Janice Mastropietro was tabbed principal at Villa Maria Academy in the northeast Bronx.
File photo

Janice Mastropietro’s first and only teaching job began at Villa Maria Academy more than two decades ago — and in July, she was tabbed principal at the northeast Bronx school.

For Mastropietro this was a dream come true — she has loved education since she was a child. The “Villa,” a Catholic co-educational elementary school in the Country Club section of the Bronx, has become her second home over the years. She lives a few blocks away, sent her two daughters to school there and has seen countless students return with success stories about going to high school, college and beyond.

“When I got the principal’s job my mother and father said to me ‘Now you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be,’” she told the Bronx Times.

Mastropietro, 60, grew up in the Pelham Bay neighborhood of the Bronx and attended P.S. 71 on Roberts Avenue. Her father Silvio Caserta was born in Italy and operated a painting business in the Bronx. However, neither her father nor her mother — Marie Caserta — went to college. Nevertheless, they always stressed how important education was to their daughter.

Mastropietro fell in love with the classroom as a youngster and was enthralled when she discovered the thousands of books at the local library.

“I always loved school,” she said. “I was the kid in August who was excited when it was time to buy school supplies.”

Mastropietro went to Preston High School in Throggs Neck and eventually became the first in her family to attend college when she obtained an English degree from Queens College in 1986.

However, she didn’t go right into teaching. Around the age of 24, a friend of her father’s who owned Castle Oil, a privately owned oil corporation, asked if she could fill in for a couple of weeks as an executive assistant.

She ended up staying there for 12 years and became a vice president of corporate planning. Mastropietro excelled in the business world, but after having her second daughter, she knew it was time to enter the teaching realm.

“Twelve years flew by, and I said it was time to go back to school,” she said. “I said, ‘if I’m ever going to do it, it’s now.’”

Mastropietro landed a parttime teaching job at Villa Maria Sept. 10, 2001, starting just a day before the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. She said that greatly impacted her career as an educator.

“That had a very powerful effect on my teaching because I learned instantly something that many teachers don’t learn for a long time — children cannot learn unless they feel safe,” she said. “That catastrophic event that happened right in our own backyard forced me to prioritize the child over the education, and also made me appreciate each and every day that we are in school and get through an ordinary day together. Actually, there’s nothing ordinary about the ‘regular’ days; they are each an incredibly special gift from God.”

A year later, she was given a full-time role as a middle school English teacher. While teaching she also obtained a master’s in childhood education in 2005 from the College of New Rochelle. Her role as an educator also expanded when she became the leader of campus ministry in 2014.

After more than 20 years as a teacher at Villa Maria Academy, Janice Mastropietro is the school’s new principal. Photo courtesy Janice Mastropietro

According to Mastropietro, it was always her goal to become principal. With her business background and love for education, she was prepared for the role. So, in 2016 she obtained an additional master’s degree in administration from St. John’s University and waited for her dream job.

She was offered other principal jobs within the Archdiocese, but felt her time would come at Villa Maria.

“I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Mastropietro said.

In the winter of 2021, Teresa Barton, a nun and principal at the time, announced her retirement as principal of Villa Maria and the opportunity was finally there. Mastropietro applied, interviewed and was hired — officially beginning the role on July 1.

Some people may have thought she was crazy to wait so long for the job, but this was where she belonged, Mastropietro said. She told the Bronx Times she isn’t sure if her career would have unfolded the way it did if she came to teaching right out of college.

Since becoming principal, Mastropietro said there is never enough time in the day for everything. She’s in the classrooms all the time and constantly speaks with parents — but she knows she is molding lives for the future, which brings her so much happiness.

“This is home,” she said. “I never minded being here after hours. I have to take care of these children as if they are my own children. Sometimes I look around and I just can’t believe it.”

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