The Hometown Teacher
Sandy Picano’s first love has always been helping kindergarteners learn. She taught children throughout the St. Lucie County school system and currently teaches at St. Anastasia Catholic School. ED DRONDOSKI PHOTO
BY JERRY SHAW
Something happened that brought Sandy Picano back home to teach kindergarten. Born and raised in Fort Pierce, she attended Aunt Jeanne’s Kindergarten, a popular school locally. Although all she ever really wanted was to be a kindergarten teacher, Picano was sidetracked a bit when she graduated from the first cosmetology school at Indian River Community College.
Picano, selected by readers of Indian River Magazine as the Outstanding Teacher of the Treasure Coast for St. Lucie County, worked as a beauty technician while her late husband, Mike Picano, went to the University of Florida where he earned bachelor’s degrees in advertising and public relations. Mike was well known as a high school, Little League and Babe Ruth League coach and an educator in the St. Lucie County school system.
The Picanos returned to Fort Pierce after his graduation. They opened the Varsity Sport Shop, which remains a successful venue for sports equipment to this day, and Mike suggested that Sandy take night classes for education since he knew about her desire for teaching.
“I think that’s why we opened the sports shop,” Picano says. “He worked there and I would go to school at night.”
The return to her hometown would keep her there. Florida Atlantic University was linked with the Indian River campus at the time and Sandy was schooled in the same town where that started her off in kindergarten. “I used all Fort Pierce schools to get my degree.”
On top of that, she visited her first kindergarten teacher, Jeanne Williamson, owner of Aunt Jeanne’s, who was in an assisted living facility, so teacher and former student could celebrate her teaching degree.
Sandy remained a teacher with the St. Lucie County school system for 34 years, teaching at Fairlawn Elementary, the Fort Pierce Magnet School of the Arts and Frances K. Sweet Elementary. Most of those years, she was a kindergarten teacher, occasionally moving up to first grade, but eventually asking to go back to her first love, kindergarten.
Retirement didn’t stop her from that love. “The day I retired I came over here (St. Anastasia) for an interview.” She accepted a job offer to teach kindergarten at the Catholic school. “I love it,” she says.
Her family and the community suffered a great loss when Mike died in 2011, but Sandy found a family at St. Anastasia to help her. “St. Anastasia got me at the right time,” Picano recalls. “They have picked me up on many days.”
he calls herself “very blessed” for the opportunity to teach kindergarteners. “I like seeing the growth,” she says. “I like seeing children learn the numbers and learn how to read.”
The parents who nominated her as the Outstanding Teacher of the Treasure Coast for St. Lucie County see her enjoyment. “Mrs. Picano has such a vibrant personality and provides the children with exactly what they need for success,” Katie H. Price notes. “She teaches on their level, engages their curious minds, challenges them to stretch their thoughts, encourages them with her love, and keeps the classroom lighthearted with her silly stories and fun approach to learning.”
Walter Marr echoes the sentiments of many parents when he calls her “part of our family.”
School: St. Anastasia Catholic School, Fort Pierce
Family: Daughter Lara DiMartino, St. Augustine; son Michael Picano Jr., Boston.
Background: Has worked in education for more than 35 years; two years at St. Anastasia and 34 years with St. Lucie County schools, including Fairlawn Elementary, Frances K. Sweet Elementary and Fort Pierce Magnet School of the Arts.
How I got into teaching: “All I ever wanted to do was be a kindergarten teacher.”
What I like best about teaching: “The growth you can see in the kindergarten students.”
Something my students probably don’t know about me: “I still love doing what I do best, teaching kindergarten.”