The Big Hearted Man 

(Marc Guarino, Summer 1988)

An Interview with Marc Guarino, Principal, Eastern Middle School

By Derek Shah, 8th Grade EMS



Look back just one year at Eastern Middle School, and you’ll realize how rife with change these past 9 months have been. Our new principal, Marc Guarino, has been the driving force behind much of this. I sat down with him this past Friday, March 22, and we talked for about 30 minutes. And in just those 30 minutes, I was able to really get a sense of how big this man’s heart is.


As one of my first questions, I asked him, “How has being a parent affected how you act as an educator?” He then told me that, just before his first son was born, his boss, the principal, sat him down and explained to him that after he had a child, he would see things “completely differently.” He realized that when a parent sends their child to school, they trust those educators at the school to be positive role models for their children, and they trust their children will learn to be good people from their teacher.


Mr. Guarino knows his responsibility as a role model, as someone the kids see every day, and he embraces that fully. After he had just been hired as principal of Trumbull High School in 2013, he told the faculty at the school he was leaving and that his son would be attending the school in two years. He told them he expected them to love his son, just as he expected them to love all the kids there. And he leads by example, too.


While some educators will do nothing, look straight at a problem, and not even try to fix it, Mr. Guarino will always do everything he can to make things happen. Just looking at the (not even) one year that he’s been here, you can see that he’s already made substantial changes. He’s trying to give kids opportunities, and even if it doesn’t always work out, people in the EMS community should appreciate his efforts. For example, he established a program where they track how often teachers contact parents about the work kids are doing in school. The whole goal of this is to improve teachers' relationship with the students and their families. He wants to change the automatic response that most kids (and parents) have when they get sent to the principal’s office or get a note from the teacher - that drawn-out “What now,” followed by the inevitable sigh. Instead, he wants to remind kids (and parents) of the power a quick, positive note has.


Something else he did differently this year was the decision he made to publicize the intramural program - and the gym teachers have reported that they’ve never seen so many kids there. This is my own personal example: he helps students start things like clubs. Earlier this year, I had the idea to start an investing club - so that my peers and I could learn more about the stock market. But I didn’t know how I would get it established. So, I set up a meeting with him, and he helped me figure out what I had to do - and I can proudly say that we got it up and running, and with the help of some other people, it’s been a great club.


When asked what makes a great school great, Mr. Guarino says that, it’s all about respect. Respect for the teachers, respect for the students, and respect for the learning that you’re getting. He told a story about how, at his old school, some students clapped when he walked into the room, both because they respected his role as a facilitator of their learning and that learning as well. And he does whatever he can to facilitate that mutual respect. Using honesty and directness in hard times, not degrading or belittling people, and always showing respect, he does his part and encourages students to do theirs.


Mr. Guarino’s commitment towards creating respect and opportunities for students stems from his own personal experiences as a student and from a great teacher he once had. Back when he was in eighth grade, Mr. Guarino had to take a placement test for high school. He did so badly in the math section he was placed in the lowest-level class. None of his siblings had been in that type of class, and he didn’t want to be in it either, so he was understandably very upset. When his parents explained how he was feeling to the school, the Dean of Academics agreed to let him learn Algebra I over the summer with his uncle, William Nardozzi, a certified math teacher. And for hours every day, with patience, respect, and humor, his uncle taught him. At the end of the summer, Mr. Guarino looked at himself and thought: if I can make the same difference in someone’s life as my uncle made in mine, then I’d never regret anything.


William Nardozzi passed away four years ago, exactly four years to the day I interviewed Mr. Guarino, and it was clear that he missed him a great deal. He told me that he always thinks about his uncle and that his goal will always be to keep giving kids opportunities like the one his uncle gave him. As I walked out of his office that day, I thought, man, I’m so glad he’s the principal.