40 years of education

The Faculty of Education celebrates Antonella Scaccia-DeWitt's forty years of amazing service to the University of Alberta.

Kateryna Barnes - 13 January 2020

Antonella and cake

Where were you 40 years ago?

For Antonella Scaccia-DeWitt, she was in the Faculty of Education's Department of Elementary Education for her first year working at the University. A lot has changed since 1979, but she's remained a mainstay in the Education Centre. Over the years she's worked as the Child Study Centre administrator, an executive assistant, and the undergraduate program administrator, but she currently works for the Department of Elementary Education as the graduate program administrator.

Those who have worked with Antonella have memories of her that are unmistakably the Antonella we all know and love. Here are a few we've decided to share:

Antonella and Nicholas

Antonella is a gift to the department. We are so lucky that her commitment to the Faculty and the University has kept her with us for the past 40 years. Her depth of knowledge about the graduate program and the department has been a priceless asset for me as Chair. Since Antonella somehow doesn't seem to age, I am looking forward to the next 40 years that she will be spending with us *wink wink*.

Jerine Pegg, Chair of the Department of Elementary Education

Jim Parsons

Antonella was an important person to me as a new chair, not just because of her wealth of experience, but also because of her kindness and compassion for students and her faculty and staff colleagues; and it is kindness and compassion that forms the heart of an academic department.

Larry Prochner, Chair of the Department of Educational Policy Studies

Halloween 2019

I have been honoured to have worked with Antonella for more than seven years (so far!). She is an integral part of the department and brings unparallelled experience to all that she does. Over the course of our time working together, she has demonstrated time and again her commitment to the department, our students, and everyone who works here.

What I most admire and appreciate about working with Antonella (besides how much fun it is!), is her continued capacity to adapt, evolve and respond to change. In our relatively few years together, there have been significant changes both within the department and beyond, and Antonella's leadership in moving forward through those changes has been invaluable.

Vanessa Grabia, Assistant Chair of the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education

Antonella and Patches

Whenever I've needed some background knowledge on a process or system in the Department of Elementary Education, grad school advice, or I just want a rejuvenating chat with a colleague, I know I can depend on Antonella. Not only is she a wealth of knowledge and kindness, she's also a lot of fun to have in the office. In fact, she's the only person allowed to call me "Kitty Kat" in the entire world (and don't you try it).

Kateryna Barnes, Communications and Web Development for the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education

Antonella, Cris, and statues

Antonella Scaccia-DeWitt (aka Mama Nutella)

"You sound just like my husband," Antonella says to me often.

The first time I heard Antonella say that, I thought, "what an intelligent, insightful and intuitive man". When I eventually met Brad, it gave us a chance to start a two man support group.

Long before I met Antonella's husband, Brad, and earned the title of Antonella's "work husband", I started working at the Department of Secondary Education in December of 2008 right before practically everyone in the department general office left for an extended winter break. I was left to my own devices. I wandered up to the Elementary offices to seek answers. That's when I first met Antonella. She told me about starting work at the university fresh out of high school and also about the day that a certain tall, good looking student came into the office, and they eventually married. I said, "Yeah, that's why I'm here!"

In all seriousness, Antonella became a go-to source as her longevity and knowledge in the Faculty of Education makes her quite the historian. If I came across a name I didn't know or a policy I needed to unravel, I often came to her. Antonella has always been a comrade who was around when the "new way" of doing things was the way they were done before they did it the old way, and then the really old way became the "new" new way, and she'd say "Oh no, not this way again."

When I eventually took a position that landed me in both Elementary and Secondary Education, Antonella became a work mate who was open to input as we discussed project goals and procedures, supporting my contribution to the department, encouraging me to "run with it", and appreciating my knowledge and insight. The work environment is also fun because of her humour and zest for conversation.

Cris Ryder, Office Administrator for the Departments of Elementary and Secondary Education

Antonella Brenda sign

I met Antonella in 1984 when I began graduate studies and our friendship continues to this day. Antonella joined the Department of Elementary Education shortly after she finished high school and still recalls the interview she had with Betty Graham that led to her hiring. Over the years Antonella has served in several support staff positions, but she has also 'served' in various informal positions such as student counselor, life coach, and academic staff mental health confidant. If you are ever having a down day where the web of bureaucracy has you firmly in its grip, simply head for Antonella's office where she will lend a sympathetic ear, provide her own insights, and set you on the path to happiness.

I also spent many years with Antonella on the department's social committee. Thank goodness we were both organized people who could quickly make decisions as this helped smooth the way through many staff retirement celebrations. Antonella always excelled at selecting menu items from local caterers and we spent many hours setting up rooms for various social functions and as I recall, cleaning up at the end of the day.

These memories of Antonella would not be complete without mentioning her sense of fun and humor that helped us through many work-based situations. Antonella could always see the funny side of life and share a laugh as we sized up some situation. Congratulations on the achievement of 40 years with the department and all the best for a wonderful future!

Brenda Gustafson, Professor Emerita from the Department of Elementary Education

In 1979…

  • The Education Library was renamed the Herbert T. Coutts Library after the Faculty of Education's longest-serving Dean, Herbert Coutts.
  • Former Chair of the Department of Elementary Education Myer Horowitz became the University of Alberta President. He's the only member of the Faculty of Education to hold the university's highest office.
  • The Montreal Canadiens won their fourth consecutive Stanley Cup.
  • Mother Theresa won the Nobel Peace Prize.
  • A partial reactor meltdown happened at Three Mile Island Nuclear Generating Station in Pennsylvania.
  • The Deer Hunter won "Best Picture" at the Academy Awards.
  • The Sugar Hill Gang's "Rapper's Delight" was released, introducing hip hop to a wider radio audience.

Photos courtesy of Kateryna Barnes, Brenda Gustafson, and Antonella Scaccia-DeWitt