At the end of each theatre performance, a nod to the director is often given; a thank you, a bouquet of flowers, a quick bow to the audience. However, last week on Oct. 25, a proper spotlight shone on Nancy Vitulli, Cranston West’s theater director and teacher, as Channel 10 aired the surprise visit to her classroom which took place earlier this month when she was presented with the prestigious Golden Apple award in front of family, friends, and colleagues, including her 91-year-old father, John Vitulli.
West’s Brenna Whittaker, a student in Vitulli’s theater classes and a participant in the extracurricular theater program, nominated Vitulli for the honor, noting that Vitulli gives Whittaker and her fellow students the opportunity to have a safe space, and a place to do what they love.
“She just always knows how to make everyone happy, she always puts a smile on our faces and gives us a safe place to break us out of our shells,” Whittaker said. “It’s just a great environment to be around.”
Also present from the family were Vitulli’s sister, Donna Treglia, her son John Donegan, and her niece, Christine Treglia.
Channel 10’s Patrice Wood was accompanied in the surprise visit by Charlene Tuttle, Rhode Island’s Teacher of the Year, and Scott Kaplan of Ocean State Credit Union, who presented her with $250 to help further her work in the classroom. Superintendent Jeannine Nota-Masse and the Rhode Island Commissioner of Education, Ken Wagner, were also in attendance.
Applause erupted in the classroom as Vitulli was surprised by the entourage entering the room. She immediately began directing people to their places, asking for all of her family and friends to stand with her to receive her award. She noted that Principal Tom Barbieri had told her that morning that it was going to be a good day.
“It’s a good day,” she said emotionally. “It’s a good day any day you can be making a difference in the lives of these children and they make a difference in my life every day. I also have an unbelievable family that has supported me from the time that I was a child, all the way through. I’ve got my dad, who has just been an amazing support, and my sister and my son, who was three years old when I started teaching, and now he’s going to be married, and he’s running for city council, and I’m so proud of him.”
Wood told Vitulli that the word that had been used to describe her was “brilliant,” which was received with a round of applause.
“In my 28 years of my career, maybe longer, the arts have always been really important to me, as a student in the Cranston schools, and I feel really blessed to be able to continue that tradition, and I really hope that the arts continue to receive the attention they deserve because they really make a difference in the lives of people here and I just hope that’s the message,” Vitulli said. “It’s become an increasingly technological society and I don’t want us to forget that we are human beings and knowing how to communicate with each other and how to be present, let’s not forget that.”
Wagner thanked Vitulli for her work with the arts as he presented her with her Golden Apple.
“Thank you so much,” he said. “You’re right. Especially now, especially in this time, the arts can change lives, and we have to keep that in mind.”
Tuttle told Vitulli that it was clear from what Whittaker wrote and the joy in the students’ faces in her classroom, that she truly does make an impact.
Vitulli’s father praised his daughter’s dedication to her career, his emotions evident as he spoke.
“I’m totally proud of her, she’s very dedicated,” he said. “She puts a lot of effort into her job.”
Barbieri expressed his pride in Vitulli and all of her talents, as she has led her drama program to decades of wins and recognition in both the Rhode Island drama festival and the New England Drama Festival.
“Nancy is brilliant,” he said. “Bravo, Nancy Vitulli, bravo.”
Vittulli’s award presentation can be viewed at turnto10.com/station/golden-apple/golden-apple-cranston-student-says-teacher-makes-her-want-to-go-to-school-every-day-10-25-2018.