Brooklyn Boro

Adams honors 100-year-old teacher, child-saving firefighter

December 22, 2014 Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Brooklyn Borough President Eric L. Adams recognizes Madeline Scotto, a 100-year-old math teacher at St. Ephrem School in Dyker Heights, as November’s “Hero of the Month”, during a press conference at Brooklyn Borough Hall that cited her for her long and distinguished career in education; also pictured are (from left to right) Anthony Pollari and Jack Lavelle, two of her eighth-grade students. Photo Credits: Kathryn Kirk/Brooklyn BP’s Office

Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has paid tribute to a 100-year-old math teacher at St. Ephrem School in Dyker Heights, as well as a firefighter who saved the life of a 6-year-old boy in Brownsville. Madeline Scotto and FDNY Lieutenant Robert Whelan last week received honorary citations and were declared “Heroes of the Month” for November and December, respectively, for their valiant actions. This is a continuation of Adams’ monthly “Hero of the Month” events honoring the accomplishments of Brooklynites from all walks of life.

“Brooklyn is home to a wide range of heroes, from young firefighters to teachers that are still young at heart,” said Adams. “Madeline Scotto and Lieutenant Robert Whelan are truly deserving of being named as ‘Heroes of the Month.’ Both have reflected an incredible commitment to the well-being of this borough, and their stories serve as examples for all of us to follow.” 

In 1960, Scotto started teaching at St. Ephrem’s Elementary School in Dyker Heights, across the street from the home where she has lived for 95 years, in what was to be a temporary position and which ultimately grew into a decades-long career at the school. As an admired educator and mentor, Scotto regularly conducted workshops for other teachers and worked diligently with select students to prepare them for mathematic competitions.

After her “retirement” in 1997, which lasted approximately two weeks, Scotto returned as a volunteer to continue to train students in all the grades for the mental Math Bees. More recently, Scotto instituted the S.A.V.E. Program at the school to instill an understanding in her student participants of the importance of earning money, saving it wisely and sharing some of the proceeds with those less fortunate.

In 2009, she was awarded the highest honor to be bestowed on a lay person by the Pope. Scotto is the proud mother of two sons and three daughters, the grandmother of nine and great-grandmother of 16. 

Lieutenant Whelan was among the firefighters called on Nov. 25 to the scene of the fire at a two-story house on Thomas Boyland Street in Brownsville. When they arrived, numerous people on the street said that there was still a child in the house. Whelan made his way through heavy smoke conditions and high heat towards the rear rooms of the apartment. Feeling the walls, he crawled to a small room in the back, past a bed to find a child lying face down on the floor. Lieutenant Whelan picked him up, transmitted the signal to confirm that he had found him, and quickly handed the boy to a firefighter at the top of the stairs, after which he followed them outside where EMTs began to administer care. He then returned to the second floor apartment to continue with the primary job of water delivery to put out the fire.