Beloved NYC school member retires after more than 40 years

BOROUGH PARK, Brooklyn (WABC) -- For more than 40 years, one woman has played an influential role at New York City schools, and now the 92-year-old is ready to move on and retire.

Johanna Pontillo loves kids -- most people in education do. But she's been working with them for decades.

Forty-one of those years were spent at FDR High School in Borough Park as a paraprofessional. She greets students, reads to them and encourages them. She's like the school mom -- or grandmother.

"I think kids know when you respect them, that's the whole thing," Pontillo said. "I've had kids tell me things so personal they wouldn't tell people in their family and they know I don't repeat it or lecture, I just listen to them."

But on Tuesday, as the high school students graduate, she too is moving on.

Her colleagues gave her a standing ovation before the hugs and tears began to flow.

And as she retires, her son Vinny is getting ready to as well. He is the shop teacher at the same school and will retire in September.

"I can't tell you how many people come up to me and say they feel I'm like their brother because she's like their mom," he said.

She's been driving herself to school five days a week and waking up at 4:30 in the morning. Now she'd like to sleep in and spend some time with her own grandchildren.

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