By jeanne starmack | email@example.com
111School principal Gregory Bonamase designed a trivia game involving students and teachers, and he wanted to know: Were those teachers smarter than a fifth-grader? Could they pass Santa’s test?
The fifth-grade teachers came to the front of Friday morning’s assembly — accompanied by the thunderous delight of every kid in the room combined.
The teachers competed against one another in teams of two:
“What was the most famous of all Christmas ballets?” Answer: The Nutcracker.
“Where was Mommy kissing Santa Claus?” Answer: Under the Christmas tree. Wrong. Under the mistletoe, of course.
The questions went on, until the last one: “What is the best-selling Christmas song ever?” That would be “White Christmas” — the team of Joe Carbon and Kayla Gerke guessed it for the win.
The two came to the front of the assembly, and a line of students filed onto the stage behind them.
Carbon told the teachers to come up for more questions:
“What’s your favorite part of being a teacher?” Answer: “The students in my class.”
“What will you do over Christmas break?” Answer: “Watch the Steelers game.”
Finally, a social-studies and language-arts teacher named Alyssa DiBernardi came up.
For her, Carbon had a special question. He got down on one knee and held up a small box.
Each student on the stage held up a sign with a letter, spelling: “Will you marry me?” Answer, when she could talk again: “Yes!”
She’d had no idea what was coming. Carbon, with help from Bonamase and schools Superintendent David Cappuzzello, made the secret arrangements. He told Alyssa’s father, Dave, about it at breakfast Saturday.
But Alyssa’s mother, Wendy, a fourth-grade teacher at the school, was as stunned as she was.
“Oh my gosh, I had no idea,” said Wendy. “It’s probably best I didn’t know.”
“That’s awesome,” said Alyssa’s father, Dave. “Joe’s a great guy. She’s happy.”
“This isn’t real,” said Alyssa after receiving hugs from colleagues and from students as they left the assembly.
Carbon said the surprise wasn’t hard to pull off.
“It took a little bit of time, and I was nervous holding on to [the secret,]” he said.
“How did you not act weird?” Alyssa asked.
She said she had a feeling Joe was “the one” when they were first-year teachers together last year. Her mother also had that feeling.
“She said to my dad, ‘You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I think he’s the one,’” Alyssa said.
She said she and Joe, also a language-arts and social-studies teacher, even had classes together at Youngstown State University.
Alyssa knew her kids would want to celebrate the rest of the day.
“I can’t even make it back to the classroom,” she said. “I keep crying!”