It Adds Up: Maria DiCarlo Is 2023 Spirit Award Recipient

Maria diCarlo

Poly will celebrate the awarding of the 2023 Spirit Award to Chair of the Math Department Maria DiCarlo P’23 at Homecoming on Saturday, October 21, 2023.

The Spirit Award is presented annually by the Alumni Association Board of Governors to a Poly faculty or staff member who embodies the values and spirit that Poly seeks to represent as an institution and encourage in its students, and who has worked at Poly for at least five years.

Maria joined the Poly math faculty in 1995 and left in 2001 while she was working on her doctoral dissertation for an Ed.D. from St. John’s University. Maria returned to Poly in 2014 and was named Chair of the Math Department in 2015. Anyone who has ever visited the math office can see that Maria leads a really tight community of teachers who work hard, respect each other, and have fun, too.

Over her years at Poly, Maria has had an indelible impact on her students and on her colleagues in the Math Department.

Eileen Ahasic-Bierig ’01, who will be speaking at the Spirit Award reception, wrote in nominating Maria, “It’s rare to have a teacher mean so much to you that they have a lifelong impact. I was fortunate enough to have that in Maria DiCarlo. Maria cares for her students in a way that I have never seen before. I was part of her first SAP math class. We had the pleasure of being taught by her in seventh grade and again in ninth grade. The same group went on to AP Calculus senior year. In my final week of senior year, as I was prepping for my AP test, Maria found me studying in the hallway, sat down next to me and said, ‘I heard you’re having problems with one section of the test prep. How can I help?’ I was confused as to how she knew I was struggling. When I asked her, she explained that she would regularly check in with the AP Calc teacher to see how her beloved first SAP class was doing. She would ask about each of her former students and when our current teacher would report back with any problems or concerns, she would reach out and try to help. Keep in mind, she had her own full teaching load and a family to take care of outside of school including a young baby at home and another on the way; yet, she would take the time to help her former students.”

“She imbued all of her students with a passion for math; but in particular she impressed upon the young women in the class the importance of girls succeeding in mathematics and gave us the confidence to do so.”

“Maria was my teacher in the mid-90s,” Ahasic-Bierig continued,  “years before Women in STEM became a societal movement. You can argue she was one of the pioneers of that movement, as she always championed and advocated for the young female mathematicians in her classes. I was one of a handful of girls in her SAP math classes. Although we were in the minority, I always felt as though we were a priority — if not celebrated by Maria. She imbued all of her students with a passion for math; but in particular she impressed upon the young women in the class the importance of girls succeeding in mathematics and gave us the confidence to do so. I ultimately majored in economics in college and grad school, and pursued a highly quantitative career. I have Maria to thank in large part for my career as she fostered my love of math and gave me the confidence to pursue it academically and professionally.”

Pi Day Maria DiCarlo

Math teacher Caitlin Loi says, “Maria is the kindest and most supportive leader, colleague, and friend. She goes out of her way to ensure everyone feels heard and comfortable, but also sets an impeccable example as a well-respected math teacher. Her ability to balance teaching, leading the department, and living life astounds me and I look up to her for that.”

“Maria is a master teacher who connects with all of her students,” said Sabina Laricchia P’21, Middle School math teacher and a past recipient of the Spirit Award. “Her students know that she cares about them and their life both inside and outside the math class.  She advises them when they are experiencing difficulties and she also shares their victories.  She has served as a mentor for all of the teachers in her department and has established math as one of the strongest departments here at Poly. She stays in touch with her students after graduation and she is one of the first teachers alumni look for when they come back to visit.  Maria is so deserving of this award and we are so proud of her.”

“Maria is so worthy of the Poly Spirit Award because of her commitment to both her faculty and her students,” said Upper School math teacher Dr. Stephen Bates. “Maria ensures that her teachers are well supported and cared for, treats everyone professionally, and is always open to helping anyone who needs it. She also ensures that every decision we make as a department is always in the best interests of our students. She serves as a role model to her department and students alike, truly embodying what it means to be a successful and impactful woman in STEM education, as well as a legacy at Poly Prep.”

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Congratulations to Maria DiCarlo, our 2023 Alumni Association Board of Governors Spirit Award recipient. Join us when we celebrate Maria at a reception at Homecoming on October 21 at 4:00 PM.

Read more about past Spirit Award winners.