Teaching All Ages:
A Life Dedicated to Helping Others Learn
By JULI S. CHARKES
Published: December 30, 2007
ANDREW L. MORZELLO, 69, sat in the rectory of Our Lady of Mount Carmel
Church here, where he has been a member since childhood, and reflected on a
life of teaching. He recalled how, as a young instructor at Highlands Junior
High School, he was called into the principal’s office and told he would not
be returning the following year.
“I was stunned,” he said. “I just remember thinking, What have I done?”
he had done was distinguish himself as an exemplary teacher, so much so that
the principal nominated him for a Rotary Club scholarship to the University
of the Philippines.
For a year, he taught teachers in the northern province of the island of
Luzon how to improve their skills, while immersing himself in their culture.
“This was 1963, an interesting time to be abroad, so I tried to undo that
image of the ‘ugly American,’” he said. “Because I was teaching world
history back home, it was also an excellent experience to bring back into
the classroom when I returned to White Plains.”
Return he did, spending the next four decades in a classroom in town,
first at Highlands, then at White Plains High School, where he taught world
history and remedial reading for three years before becoming a guidance
counselor for a year.
Mr. Morzello was also the director of Adult, Continuing and Alternative
Education in the White Plains school system for 19 years. On Dec. 7, the
county recognized his efforts, inducting him into the Westchester Senior
Hall of Fame.
“People like Mr. Morzello are a beacon to others of all ages,” said the
county’s commissioner of social services, Mae Carpenter.
To Mr. Morzello, education begins long before students enter a classroom.
“Your parents are your first teachers,” he said at the awards ceremony. His
grandparents emigrated from Moiano, Italy, settling in Hazleton, Pa., at the
turn of the 20th century. After the 1917 influenza epidemic claimed the life
of his grandfather, the family moved to Westchester, where a cousin was a
priest at Mount Carmel. Mr. Morzello’s grandmother became the cook at the
church, feeding the clergy as well as her six children. Two generations
later, Mr. Morzello continues his family’s service to the parish by
volunteering as the church’s director of educational services.
“You will never meet anyone more loyal,” said the Rev. Albert Azrak of
Mr. Morzello is quick to point out that loyalty runs both ways. While a
student at Fordham, he needed help understanding Immanuel Kant’s “Critique
of Pure Reason” and turned to a priest at Mount Carmel. “I used to come down
from my house on Fisher Avenue every night and study Kant with him at the
same kitchen table where my grandmother prepared meals,” he said. “If not
for his help, I don’t know if I would have passed.”
Some 50 years later, Mr. Morzello still believes in the importance of
helping others learn. “You never know who’s going to be touched and the
impact it can have,” he said.
That was made clear at the awards luncheon. Surrounded by friends and
family, including his wife, Marianne; his daughter, Maria; and his
9-month-old granddaughter, Alexandra, Mr. Morzello quoted Booker T.
Washington: “Recognition is sweetest when it comes from your friends,” he
Only later did he learn that seated among the guests was Washington’s
great-granddaughter, Edith Washington Charles, 60, of Mount Vernon. In a
phone interview last week, Ms. Washington said she was touched by Mr.
Morzello’s words, since “keeping my great-grandfather’s name alive is very
important to me.”
Days later, he was still marveling at the coincidence. “That was
something special,” he said.