Person of the Week
Tammy Mazzucco Afragola Spreads Her Roots to Two Communities
Born and raised in East Haven, Tammy still is very involved in East Haven through work and volunteering, but now living in Guilford, she also gives back to her new hometown. (Photo courtesy of Tammy Mazzucco Afragola )
Tammy Mazzucco Afragola has deep ties to both East Haven and Guilford. She grew up in East Haven and teaches kindergarten there, but when she and her husband Anthony got married 21 years ago, they moved to Guilford where they are raising their son Anthony. She has also become involved in the community here, forming friendships through Adam’s sports, volunteering for the PTA, and previously serving as a parish council member at St. George.
Straddling two communities hasn’t been tough, she says—it has been ideal.
“I wouldn’t consider working anywhere else—I love that I attended those schools and I’d have friends’ children, but now I’m starting to have friends’ grandchildren or past student’s children. Never in all my years did I consider leaving the district,” says Tammy. “I also love my community, I just love Guilford. Adam’s involvement in sports has brought us wonderful friendships.”
Tammy has enjoyed seeing how her two hometowns have come together at various points over the years. When she was involved in the PTA at Guilford’s Melissa Jones Elementary School, she got to know many of the teachers there. During that time, she served as president and secretary and also chaired various fundraisers.
“Working with those teachers helped make me a better teacher, showing me that you could be friendly and welcoming and everyone could be one big team,” says Tammy. “From that, I adopted a ‘Team Afragola’ mentality and every year with each new group of students’ parents, the first thing I always say is that ‘We’re in this together.’”
That mentality became even more important this year with COVID forcing virtual learning. As a kindergarten teacher at East Haven’s Deer Run Elementary School, Tammy was not only sad that she couldn’t be with her students, but questioned how to keep such young students engaged.
“I was very upset at first because I felt like I had to be with those kids because they’re so little,” says Tammy. “I knew that I had to have live instruction over Zoom, so I set up a schedule with them and we did really well, getting nearly 100 percent participation. It was wonderful.”
Tammy set up a bedroom in her house to look as much like her classroom as she could. She continued many aspects of the regular school day such as morning meetings, involving the class paraprofessionals, and even coming back together for a read-aloud at the end of the day.
“I had great cooperation and we made it work to best of our ability,” says Tammy. “I feel like the parents were pleased and we got a lot out of it, even though we were all sad we couldn’t be there.”
This year marked Tammy’s 23rd as a teacher with her entire career in East Haven. The first three years she taught at St. Vincent’s, followed by 10 years at D.C. Moore Elementary School, before moving to Deer Run ever since. She notes that she is particularly proud that “Team Afragola” is the reigning champion and holder of the Traveling Trophy for the district’s reading challenge.
Tammy is certified in K-6 education and has taught every grade level but 5th. She had always been reluctant to teach kindergarten, but after a reshuffling of staff one year, she found out that kindergarten was her assignment.
“I said to myself, ‘I guess I’m going to try it.’ Lo and behold, it’s my absolute favorite,” says Tammy. “The kids come fresh so you’re part of shaping what school’s going to be like for them. They’re curious, they want to make you happy, and they want to learn everything you can possibly teach them. I look forward to seeing them every day. And the things they say are so funny.”
Tammy was a top three finalist for Teacher of the Year this year. She was also nominated by the PTA for PTA Teacher of the Year, both of which were “an honor.”
This year, working from home while her son Adam was completing his junior year at Guilford High School online allowed him to occasionally say hello to her class, which she says her students enjoyed. Her husband Anthony also was encouraging as Tammy’s work life moved into their home.
“He’s my absolute biggest cheerleader,” says Tammy. “No matter what I do, he’s so supportive. I’m so blessed with him and my son.”
Both Anthony and Adam are supportive beyond Tammy’s career. She also is an active member of the East Haven Rotary Club, in which her father Ben was very involved.
“He tried to get me to join when he was still alive, but I didn’t live in town, my son was involved in sports, and I couldn’t get to 50 percent of meetings and they had an attendance policy at the time,” says Tammy. “He loved Rotary—it was one of his favorite things he did.”
Tammy’s father lived with her for his final three years and when he passed away, she wanted to find ways to stay connected to him and his memory. She and her siblings started a scholarship in his name for East Haven High School students who are involved in volunteer work.
With the East Haven Rotary, her father had started the annual Clothe the Children Drive, which the Rotary renamed in his honor to the Ben Mazzucco Clothe the Children Drive. Tammy had always helped with the drive, but after her father passed away, members of the Rotary began to encourage her to become more involved.
“When my father passed away, it was such a heartbreak and huge loss and when they said, ‘We wish you could be more involved’ to carry on my dad’s legacy, I said I’d give it a try,” says Tammy. “It feels good to do nice things for people and now I’m there 99 percent of the time. It made me feel so much better to be involved in the Rotary my father loved. The Rotary does so many wonderful things throughout the year, which I’m happy to help with, but Clothe the Children is most dear to me.”
Tammy is not the only one who was influenced by her father. When it came time for Adam and his lifelong friends to choose a confirmation project, they chose to raise money for the Ben Mazzucco Clothe the Children Drive.
“They’ve always done everything as a group and I love having them over,” says Tammy, who enjoys spending time with her family and friends. “It was wonderful when they chose that as their project. That’s how intertwined my East Haven and Guilford life is.”
Jenn McCulloch is the Correspondent for Zip06. Email Jenn at .