What started as a simple YouTube post ended with Sachem North history teacher Jonathan Chiaramonte appearing on The Ellen DeGeneres Show Wednesday afternoon.
Known for being a peppy teacher and often dancing in class to lighten the mood, one dance caught the eye of Ellen’s people and five days later he was on the show as a guest, talking and dancing with his idol in Los Angeles.
“It was surreal,” said Chiaramonte, who graduated from Sachem in 1999 and started teaching in the district in 2005. “I felt so comfortable with her. She’s the reason I do what I do in my classroom.”
Acting silly, dancing, even rapping at times, is a way to create a safe and fun environment for his students, he said. Ellen, who has taken stands against bullying and equality, has been an inspiration for Chiaramonte.
“Dancing was only part of the reason why they put me on,” he said. “I model my classroom after her. I’ve been trying to emulate her for years. She’s authentic.”
Leading up the trip he opened a Twitter account @ELLENandMrC, where he posted constant updates about his arrival, his thoughts and eventually the appearance. Since then he’s grabbed hundreds of followers, received letters from people across the world and was asked to speak at the education class graduation at Quinnipiac University this year.
A lesson he often preaches in class at Sachem is for his students to eventually find a job they love as much as he loves his. It’s a career he was drawn to thanks to the experience he had with his fourth grade teacher Debbie Russ at Chippewa in the early 1990s.
“I think that one of the most important jobs is being a teacher,” Ellen told him on the show. “Our future generation is there every single day being influenced by people that can get them interested in learning and make them want to learn.”
Chiaramonte was shocked when Ellen played clips of Sachem students praising him for his hard work and dedication in the classroom and as a drama instructor.
“Mr. Chiaramonte is one of those guys that when you see him in the morning, he’s always got a smile on,” said Victoria Isernia.
“Classroom setting is usually very boring, no one wants to be there,” James Stumper said. “A guy like Mr. Chiaramonte turns the classroom setting into something way more enjoyable.”
To close the segment he danced through the audience and on stage with Ellen, completing a whirlwind experience.
As a parting gift she and the people at Broadway.com gave him and his students tickets to see “Sister Act” on Broadway.
“The passion that you have,” Ellen told him, “you can see how much they mean to you. That's what you're hoping when you send your kids to school. That a person is invested in students the way you are. I love you for that.”
Not bad for a guy who just likes to dance in class.