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Maria Genao-Duran Bids Farewell After a Fruitful Career!

My name is Maria Genao-Duran and I have been working for the New York City Department of Education for 33 years. I am currently an assistant principal at District 20 Pre-K Centers. I fell into education after working as a substitute one year. When I first started college my intent was to study law. I took a cinema class and fell in love with it and changed my major. Of course my family wasn’t too happy but they supported me. I ended up with a minor in political science and a bachelor of arts in cinema. I interned with PBS and MTV. It was very exciting but there wasn’t a great job demand when I graduated. The NYC Department of Education started a Bilingual Program and there was a shortage of teachers. I took the test and passed and got a temporary certificate as a Bilingual Teacher. When I started teaching it was in Sunset Park. I knew the community well because I had many family members that lived in the neighborhood and my family visited often. I even used to go to their community pool when I visited as a child. I was fresh out of college when I started teaching and when I subbed at Charles Dewey JHS the principal would sometimes stop me thinking I was a student to tell me to go back to class. LOL.

As I began my journey as an educator and as a child of immigrants, I realized how important my role was as an educator in this community and every community that served minorities and immigrants. These children needed role models and teachers that believed in them. So I went back to college. In time

I got a Masters in Bilingual Education, Masters of

Science in Instructional Technology and finally a Masters in Administration. I strongly believed that if I was going to talk the talk I had to walk the walk. I made sure to support all of my students and families as much as possible especially when making decisions about their education. I made sure to go with my students and their families to open houses and translate for them when they were applying for JHS. I informed them about the possibilities for their children when it came to education. I also made sure I prepared my students for the world when they had me as a teacher. Everyone in school knew my family because when it came time to prepare for the school year or any major event my family was all in helping me set up. I’ve always been lucky that way. I continued my career as a classroom teacher and then became a technology teacher. My goal there was also to prepare our students for the demands in a world of technology. I wanted our children to have options when they continued their path in education. My students learned how to code, do PowerPoint Presentations, Excel spreadsheets, Word documents, Film and Edit Movies (iMove and Movie Maker) plus create their own music accompaniment for their movies (Garageband). I’m proud to say many of my students ended up using these skills in their new schools after they graduated and even took it up as a personal hobby.

I was given another great opportunity to start a bilingual program at another school in Park Slope so I took a leap of faith and went with it. It was kindergarten and I loved it! I worked with the families so closely that their siblings were excited about joining the program the following year and they did. Thank you, Mrs. Burrell, for that opportunity.

Opportunity then knocked at my door again sooner than expected. The opportunity to be an administrator in the District 20 Pre-K Centers. This was an opportunity to support teachers in building a strong foundation for our children at an early age. How could I turn this down? This was also an opportunity to support the families from the beginning of education. I was going to help families understand the purpose and importance of education and what role they played in the process. This was exciting and a mission I took very seriously. It was important to me that every family felt that their child was loved and cared for. It was important that when they left their child in our hands that they knew their child was in a nurturing, caring and safe environment. Every child mattered and every family mattered. As a mother I knew how important it was to know that my child was being cared for and educated with the utmost quality education. That is something we have always maintained throughout all of our Pre-K Centers in District 20 Pre-K Centers. Every administrator, teacher, paraprofessional, secretary, school aide, nurse, safety agent, custodial staff, kitchen staff, etc. play an important role as a community and is vested in making sure that our families and children are happy, safe and getting a prime top-notch education. I’m proud to say I have been part of building this strong organization. I’m also proud to say that I was able to also represent the Latino community as a leader by being a strong proponent of starting a Dual Language program (Spanish and Chinese) and helping translate letters, presentations, help in the registration process and hold informational meetings for our parents in Spanish and Chinese (with a translator). Our Dual Language Program has been very successful and running strong thanks to our devoted teachers and paraprofessionals running the program.

As much as I have loved my role as an administrator, it has come to a point where I must retire and let our younger educators rise to the occasion. The last couple of years I lost many family members through COVID including my father and it made me put many things into perspective. I want to be able to spend some quality time with my family.

I don’t think this is the last you’ll hear from me in the world of education as I’m still very passionate about it. I want to thank Mrs. Gounardes for giving me this fantastic opportunity to work in such a fabulous program with such a great community of educators and families. It has made an everlasting impression in my life and my career.

I also want to thank all the great people I worked with especially my site coordinators throughout the years (Elizabeth DeAngelis, Drita Koci, Katy Fang, Maria Dellas, Christina Coscia and Carolina Prieto) they held the fort down while I traveled from site to site and are the hardest dedicated workers ever. I also want to thank my fellow administrators Lauren Napolitano, Kelly Mazzariello and Danielle Bennett, the parent coordinator Camille Loccisano, the secretaries Victoria Arcaro and Dawn Hansen for your support and friendship.

My sites Z074, Z011 and Z112 -you are the quality institutions that you are because of the quality of staff that work there. Thank you for living up to the expectations of our program and making so many children smile. You are wonderful and I’m proud of the work we’ve accomplished together.

Lastly, I would like to thank my husband and daughters for always being patient and supporting me throughout my career. You’re the best.

So, I bid adieu to District 20 Pre-K Centers feeling confident that I helped build a strong foundation in the program and I’m leaving it in good hands. It will continue to be the best Pre-K Center program in the New York City Department of Education and I am so proud to have been a part of it.

Have a great and safe summer!

Maria Genao-Duran, Assistant Principal


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