Where Are They Now? Maria Panuccio finds happiness in the big city

ABOVE: Maria Panuccio and her fiance, Pat Hartnett, are on top of the world in New York City.

When “More Good News” profiled Maria Panuccio in October 2013, she was working at Nicky Doodles before starting her freshman year at SUNY Cortland planning to become a teacher. She had a plan. So far, it’s working out.

Has your life gone as you hoped in the last nine years, or has it taken different directions?

I’d say that it has gone as I have hoped. Of course, nothing is perfect, but I always wanted to finish college, get a job I love and move to a big city — which I have done!

You grew up in Utica and now live in Queens and work in Brooklyn. Was the transition difficult?

Honestly, not really! I had my sister there through the transition, and I always wanted to live in a big city. Like anything in life, some days are more difficult than others.

You teach third-grade students at a public school in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. How did that job come about and what made you decide to make the move to the Big Apple?

I decided to move to New York City because my sister lived here and there was really no other place I wanted to be at the moment. I got my current job because I called many, MANY schools in the New York City Department of Education and asked if they were hiring four days before the school year began. The school I am working at opened an extra kindergarten class the day I called. I interviewed and got the job.

What’s it like living in New York City? 

It is chaotic, but in a good way! There is never a dull moment. In New York City we take public transportation everywhere so the subway has become second nature. It’s great because you are able to walk places, too. I live right across the street from a grocery store and it’s very convenient. There is so much culture, which is great. My favorite thing about New York City is the food. It truly has the best Italian food (sorry Utica). 

What’s the downside about living in a big city?

Being away from a lot of my close friends and family can be tough. I miss the convenience of living five to 10 minutes away from everyone. Though I do not mind the subway and walking everywhere, there are days I wish I could just hop in a car and drive where I wanted to go. 

You also love to travel. Where have you gone and what is your favorite place to visit?

I have been to Australia, New Zealand, Italy, Greece, London, Paris, Switzerland, Scotland, Amsterdam, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Aruba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic. The most special place to me is Australia because I student-taught there. My favorite place is either New Zealand or Italy.

Back in 2013, you said your family was very rooted in the Catholic faith. “We say prayers before meals, have to attend Mass every week and there is hardly ever a conversation where God isn’t mentioned,” you said. Has it been difficult living up to those standards that were set when you were young?

I would say yes! As I have become my own person, I have learned that it is OK to maintain my faith in a way that I feel most connected to God in. 

 You also said, “My faith has helped me to get through hard times, and I know that there is always something I can turn to when things don’t work out the way I plan.” Do you still feel that way and how do you hope to improve?

For the most part, yes. It is sometimes hard to have faith when there is so much negativity in the world. However, in order to improve, I try to find God in the mundane activities of life. For example, I find God in the stranger who helps a homeless person on the street or the kind man who offers me his seat on the busy Monday morning subway ride. Seeing God in people’s actions helps me to keep my faith when times are tough and reminds me there is SO much good in the world. 

When envisioning your future nine years ago you said, “I hope to finish college with a good GPA and get a good job in the field of speech pathology/audiology or deaf education. I hope to travel the world and one day fall in love and get married.” It seems like you’re on target, especially since you’re getting married next year. How do you feel you’re doing on your “bucket list?”

Well, after reading what I wrote at 18, I’d say I’m doing pretty good! It’s fun to read back on that and to see that I have accomplished a lot of what my 18-year-old self wanted. 

Maria Panuccio

  • Age: 27.
  • Family: Mom Terri; dad Nick; sister Nicole; brothers Vinny, Nicky and Peter. 
  • Education: Bachelor’s degree in Early Childhood and Childhood Education from SUNY Cortland; master’s degree in Literacy Education from SUNY Oneonta.
  • Employment: Third-grade teacher 
  • Favorite TV shows: “Modern Family,” “Gilmore Girls” and “Survivor.”
  • Favorite movie: “Mamma Mia!” 
  • Favorite book: There are too many to choose from, but any thriller book.
  • Things you like to do: Read, cook, and travel.
  • Favorite quote: “The sun will rise.”