Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York

Dr. Dorothy Pita


Dr. Dorothy Pita

31st Interview
Interviewee: Dr. Dorothy Pita
Interviewer: Dr. Mark Naison
No Date of Interview
Summarized by Rob Passaro
Dr. Dorothy Pita was born and raised in the Bronx and lived on the Grand Concourse when she began teaching at PS 59 in 1950.  She taught Kindergarten and remembers how safe it felt in and around the school and the neighborhood.  The school was made up of Jewish, Latino and African American students but Latino and African American each made up close to fifty percent of the school.  Then, when PS 18 was built Dr. Pita began teaching there.  The school was close to the Patterson Houses and many of her students lived there and would walk to school.  Dr. Pita said she didn’t remember feeling any racial tension in the schools or the community and never saw fights in or outside of the school.
After getting married and becoming pregnant, Dr. Pita took some time off from teaching until 1968.  She explained that the neighborhood and the school remained a safe and nurturing place, and that not too much had changed during her absence.  The only real noticeable difference was that all the Italians were gone and a lot more Latinos had moved into the area.  Upon her return in 1968 Dr. Pita taught kindergarten, first and second grade before becoming the Black Studies Coordinator.  During this time, Dr. Pita noticed for the first time a Black consciousness emerge in her students and how it affected them.  She explained that Black students around the third grade began realizing for the first time that they were not the same.
As a teacher, Dr. Pita understood the importance of reaching out to students and getting through to them.  She once brought in a recuperating drug addict to talk to her class about the evils of drugs.  She said she knew it had an influence on the children just by watching how well they listened.  She also appreciated the use of Power Professionals in the classroom.  The Power Professionals were mostly Latino and African American and could talk to misbehaving children and get a message across to them in their own language.

Keywords:  Grand Concourse, PS 59, PS 18, Patterson Houses, Black Studies, Drug Addicts, Power Professionals.


© 2009 Bronx African-American History Project at Fordham University

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