Tribute to Sally Passarella: David Carbone

Tribute to Sally Passarella: David Carbone
David Carbone spoke about the impact Sally Passarella had on his life. (Photo courtesy of Great Neck Public Schools)

Below is a speech by David Carbone at the 2019 Great Neck South High School graduation honoring Sally Passarella, the South High student dean who passed away at the beginning of the school year. This was submitted by the Great Neck Public Schools. 

Good afternoon, everyone.  My name is David Carbone, and I’m standing up here today because Mrs. Sally Passarella truly changed my life.  Allow me to explain how.

Mrs. Passarella was my English teacher during junior year.  As you would expect in an English class, we did a lot of reading and we did a lot of writing.  We also had to do the dreaded oral presentation.

Lots of kids get nervous before having to stand up and speak in front of the whole class, but my nervousness knew no bounds. In the days leading up to the presentations, I found it hard to focus on class work, even in other classes. When the presentations started, I could barely listen to anyone else because of the fear that I would be next. However, not getting called on one day was actually worse because the cycle would start again the next day.

Ms. Passarella became aware of my situation and pulled me aside one day after class. She told me to relax because she wasn’t going to decide my overall grade for the quarter based on how I performed in front of the class. In fact, she said that if I was that uncomfortable presenting in front of the class, I didn’t have to do it. Instead, I could go to her office during a free period and give my presentation in front of just her and another teacher. I was blown away by this offer. Mrs. Passarella was the dean of students, she taught several English classes, and she probably had a lot of papers to grade, but she still found time to accommodate me and my fear. No other teacher ever made such an accommodation for me and I took her up on her offer. It was much easier for me to give my presentation this way. If this was all she did for me, it would have been enough. But when my presentation was over, Mrs. Passarella heaped praise on me and said it was too bad the rest of the class didn’t get to see it also.

A few weeks later, Mrs. Passarella brought me into her office and suggested that I consider being one of the morning announcers during my senior year because she thought I would be good at it. I was flattered that she thought of me but was also kind of confused. I reminded her that I couldn’t even speak in front of my English class and said I didn’t see how I could possibly address the entire school. She encouraged me to try it, saying that it would be a good way to overcome my anxiety over public speaking, and reassured me that if I did not enjoy it, I wouldn’t have to continue. I didn’t want to disappoint her, so with some hesitation, I agreed to try it out.

When my senior year started, Mrs. Passarella wasn’t well enough to come back to school. Armed with a copy of Mrs. Passarella’s yearbook photo that I propped up in front of me, I went into the announcement room and stood in front of the microphone. I joined two other announcers—both of whom were more comfortable than I was—and gave a portion of the announcements. And…I loved it. So I continued to do it day after day, and I started to get more and more comfortable at the mic. I began ad libbing and tossing in jokes and snarky comments.

I’ve also had to give some oral presentations throughout my senior year and, while I’m not going to say that every one of them was amazing, what was amazing is that instead of being anxious for days on end, I would actually look forward to my turn.

Because they have to hear me every day on the announcements, some of the teachers and staff started to call me “The Voice of Great Neck South.” I have to admit that I love hearing that—but it was Mrs. Passarella who helped to share that voice with everyone.

So, as I started off by saying, the only reason I am up here today is because of Mrs. Passarella. The only reason I am up here—addressing all of you on a stage at the Tilles Center—is because of the positive impact that Mrs. Passarella has had on my life. And sadly for me—and for the entire Great Neck South community—the only reason I am up here is because Mrs. Passarella is not here with us today. Great Neck South was an immeasurably better place because of Mrs. Passarella. I’m just one of the many students whose lives she touched over the years and I know that I speak for all of us when I say that, while we will continue to miss her, the lessons she taught us and the changes she has made on our lives will live on in all of us.

No posts to display


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here