Tony Danza: 'The Boss' in the Classroom

Actor Tony Danza visited Ursinus College to reflect on his year teaching in Philadelphia, the resulting book, and to share own ideas for education reform.


When you've starred in sitcoms, talk shows, stage and film, the obvious next career step is…teaching high school in Philadelphia?

For "Who's the Boss?" star Tony Danza, it was.

Danza spent 2009 teaching 10th grade at Northeast High School in Philadelphia, and has written a book about it - "I'd Like to Apologize To Every Teacher I Ever Had: My Year as a Rookie Teacher at Northeast High." Danza was brought to Ursinus College by the Towne Book Center in Collegeville to meet with fans and sign books.

"I was sixty, got fired, I was feeling pretty crummy," Danza said, referencing his "Tony Danza Show," which was canceled in 2006. "I wanted to do something with my life - that my kids could be proud of"

Inspired by "Teach for America," Danza decided to go back to the classroom - he graduated with plans to be a teacher, but decided to act instead. The first semester teaching at Northeast High was filmed for the reality show "Teach" on A&E, which was created in part to show what life was like in inner-city schools.

Danza, channeling his Tony Micelli charm in Bomberger Hall, highlighted the issues he seems in schools today, many of which relate to the media.

"If Snoop Dogg can sell Chryslers, why do I have to apply myself in school?" Danza questioned, also referencing Jersey Shore.

Danza's message, to a room full of roughly 200 people, many of whom were teachers, is simple: kids get out of education what they put into it.

"My regret was that I didn't apply myself," Danza said, reflecting on his time in high school.  "We can knock our heads against the wall - we can make the day longer, we can reduce class sizes…but [we need] to get the kids to decide that this is important to them."

Danza illustrated his thought with a story about a girl at Northeast High, Charmaine:

"Charmaine, how long do you think you're going to be in school?" Danza asked her in detention one day.

"Ugh, forever," she replied.

Danza then opened his arms to show a large, definable amount of time.

"I said no, sweetheart, no. Here's your life," he said, indicating the time.

"This much of your life is school," he said, motioning to a small part of it.

"You don't want to be out there in your life, looking back on your your time in school saying 'Gee, I wish I would have done better, like someone I know," Danza said, pointing to himself. "And this will effect the rest of your life!"

Danza suggested a national campaign - similar to the ban on texting, smoking, or other safety initiatives - but to help high school kids appreciate that their entire lives will be effected if they chose not to engage in high school, particularly inner-city kids.

"I've been worried about education. I don't think we can continue where we are and sustain a great country," Danza said. "These are our kids."

Related Story:

Photo Gallery: Tony Danza Visits Ursinus College

. September 18, 2012 at 04:51 PM
First off, no I am not a teacher but have family members who are. Secondly, NOBODY in the suburbs is "emergency certified" (except maybe in the City of Chester) as there are lines of qualified, certified, licensed teachers wanting those jobs. Danza didn't want to do the work to become a real teacher so he instead took a short cut so he could make a half-a$$ed TV show to put a few bucks in his pocket. Period. If he would have took the required college courses, passed the Praxis Exams, and gotten licensed to teach in PA, that would be one thing. Instead he took advantage of a poor school and turned it into the set for his "reality" TV show. Collegeville Mom - I have spoken to many teachers and not one supports Danza's BS show. If you want to be a star fuc#er and worship a D list guy like Danza, suit yourself but most intelligent people won't follow. I really hope you don't teach in PASD.....
. September 18, 2012 at 04:54 PM
I'm not a teacher but the fact you would ASSume that Tony Danza is a good teacher because he was on "Who's The Boss" nearly 30 years ago says more about you than it does about me.
Camy Quinn September 18, 2012 at 10:53 PM
1. I never assumed Tony Danza was a good teacher. Most 1st year teachers are not very good. It takes many years to become a good teacher. 2. Many teachers in the suburban schools are emergency certified - that is an absolute fact - even in the very best districts. This especially happens during these economic times when districts are not hiring and are forced to shuffle around the current staff to cover all of the academic needs. If a biology teacher needs to become a physics teacher, they can be emergency certified for one year until they take the Praxis. This is common practice. It happens in every district. 3. Did the teachers you spoke to watch the show? I am guessing I know more teachers than you do, since I know a few hundred. The ones who watched the show thought it was an honest depiction, although we teach in the 'burbs, so we can't say for sure it was an honest depiction of a city school where things are much tougher.
Camy Quinn September 18, 2012 at 10:53 PM
4. He did take many required college courses, but did not take the Praxis. This is exactly the same procedure for every single student teacher in PA. Tony Danza had a certified teacher in the room at all times, just like every student teacher does. 5. I agree Tonay Danza wanted to make some money. I am very happy with the way he went about it. He could have made some awful, lame sitcom. At least with this endeavor he was trying to do something positive. 6. I don't know what a star fuc#er is. Can you explain? 7. "Intelligent people" will watch the show and form their opinion from that. Some will agree with me, some won't. That is perfectly fine with me, it won't change my opinion. You never did answer if you watched the show. If so, how many episodes? 8. I do not teach at PASD, so you don't have to worry about my nutty respect for a man who wanted to give an honest look at public education. It's crazy that I'm allowed to teach children, isn't it?
Tara McNally September 20, 2012 at 12:07 AM
Collegeville Mom, I love you and your fair assessment. I saw this man come home late, drained and desperste for a way to "reach the kids". He is an extremely intelligent well versed man. He had a true passion for what he was teaching..truly knew the classics these kids were reading and tried to get through to them. I felt bad for him...it wasn't just about the show for him..he really felt like todays youth had lost their connection with the classics. Everything he loved and had a passion for , well very few of the kids appreciated it. He worked so hard and was truly devestated. Obviously it was a job and income to him...but what most dont see is that it was much more to him than that.


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