kids - and this year he
has 94.As principal of Grace Lutheran School in Chicago, Giannotta shows his affection as he wears many hats for the kids: doctor, athletic director, counselor, taxi driver and more.
"That's just what principals of small city schools do," he
says humbly.But not every principal wears his
heart on his
sleeve like Giannotta does.Grace Lutheran School
is located in the South Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago, commonly known as "Little Village" due to its predominantly Mexican-American population (83% Hispanic, according to 2000 census data).But students come from all over: neighboring Cicero and Berwyn, the north side of Chicago, and even Joliet.For some, the private school offers parents convenient access to their jobs, as more than 1,000 service, retail, manufacturing, and industrial business are located in Little Village.For others, the school offers the guidance and education lacking in a student's neighborhood school.
"I'm always saying I have the cutest kids, but I'm not just saying it - I do!" Giannotta
is like a proud father as he
leads a tour of the school from its basement gym to the tiny perch on the fourth floor known as the principal's office. ("I'm never there," he
says."Everything I need is downstairs.") He
points out some recent renovations courtesy of several churches that serve as partners in mission with the school, such as revamped water coolers and newly painted hallways.He
also points out some needed renovations evidenced by the temporary boards nailed into the gym floor.As Giannotta
shows off the preschool classroom, one little boy looks up from his
craft and regards the principal seriously."Hi, Mr. G." he
says respectfully."Hello, Nicholas," Giannotta
holds the Grace Lutheran teaching staff in the highest regard, his
eyes lighting up as he
describes them: Gloria Canjura, dedicated preschool teacher for 14 years; Jennifer Mustard, mission-minded compassionate kindergarten teacher; Kathy Brown, 1st/2nd grade teacher who began her
Grace career in the middle of the 2005-2006 academic year; Jennifer Logan, hard-working 3rd/4th grade teacher; Stephen Benson, 5/6 grade teacher whose classroom is a kid's haven complete with various pets; and Joseph Hansa, an alumnus of Grace Lutheran School
known as "the science guy."Giannotta
himself began his
career at Grace Lutheran School
as a teacher and he
steps back into teaching whenever needed.
does a lot of stuff that's not necessarily in her
job description, but there's no one else to do it," Giannotta
"If we don't show up, there's no one to cheer the kids on," Giannotta
says."And it's not because the parents don't care.It's because they have to work to survive." Giannotta
probably knows more about the financial situations of the families than many principals, because he
is the parents' resource when tuition is due or the family needs financial assistance.
, it's not even a decision to make.
"You have to take them!"he