LEVITTOWN, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – A tragedy turned into a message of positivity on Long Island.
Our Oh My Goodness series highlights people making a difference.
Six months after a beloved high school teacher died, his legacy is shining on, thanks to a new children’s book.
As CBS2’s Carolyn Gusoff reports, the story of The Great Blue Dragon sounds like a fairy tale.
“There once was a Great Blue Dragon. He was the mightiest of all the dragons… Young and old came to learn the secret of his spark, and the Great Blue Dragon taught them all,” read author Dave Goldman.
But not very long ago and not very far away there lived a teacher at Division Avenue High School, home of the Blue Dragons.
“If we are the Blue Dragons, he was the Great Blue Dragon,” Goldman said. He’s an English teacher at Division.
His name was Mike Verdi. He didn’t roar fire, but he sparked passion.
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“He always had a positive outlook on life and if you had a problem, even if it was the smallest thing, he was there to help you,” said senior Erin Cacciutolo.
“He coached multiple sports He ran the book club, published the school newspaper. He ran the food drives and the blood drives,” said Goldman.
“He was heart and soul of Divison,” Erin said.
Then, one day, his flame went out.
“Finally and suddenly, the time came for the Great Blue Dragon to rest. He was very tired,” read Goldman.
“I woke up one morning and my husband was gone,” said Kristy Verdi, Mike’s wife.
Unexpectedly in September, Kristy lost a husband, he three children lost a dad, and the Levittown community lost a beloved educator.
Dave Goldman, also an English teacher at Division High School, penned the story of the Great Blue Dragon.
“Mike was definitely the great blue dragon. His fire was the brightest, his roar was the loudest, he was the one who taught us to have fire and passion and enthusiasm,” he said. “In the story, the time comes for the Great Blue Dragon to rest, and it’s a hard thing for the little dragons to deal with. But eventually they realize thry now how to roar, they know how to fly, because of him.”
The book is helping to heal a community’s broken heart.
“I belong to a support group for young widows. They all bought it and it’s helping their children with loss too,” Kristy said.
Proceeds of the book go to the Verdi family and a scholarship in his name. The book itself also ensuring that his passion lives on.
“It actually makes we want to be like him when I grow up,” one student said.
Students pledging to become teachers, and embody Mr. Verdi’s goodness.
“Whatever you do, you can make a difference in somebody’s life and help them and you can do that just by smiling at them,” Kristy said.
“Mike believed in character. He said character is what you do when no one is looking,” Goldman said. “He would say dare to be great.”
“Positive outlook on life, help others before you help yourself,” one student said.
The moral of the story?
“When you influence someone, especially teachers, when you teach someone something, impact them in any way, you live on in them after you’re gone,” said Goldman.
The Great Blue Dragon is gone, but “because of him the world of dragons would always be bright,” Goldman read.