CCA teacher uses real-life experience as police officer to educate students
Anthony Perrotto, a former police officer, teaches American government and criminal investigations to Commonwealth Charter Academy students.
When Commonwealth Charter Academy teacher Anthony C. Perrotto’s students learn that his police academy training included being hit with a Taser and pepper spray, they ask which is worse. He tells them it’s the pepper spray, which “hurts for a long time.”
“Tasing hurts a lot, but it’s done in 10 seconds,” he said.
At CCA, many educators enrich their lessons with real-world experience from their unique backgrounds.
Former police officer Perrotto, now an American government and criminal investigations teacher, offers a law enforcement perspective, teaching invaluable lessons about police work that everyone should know – even if they don’t plan to pursue careers in criminal justice.
Perrotto is a native of Long Island, New York, who modeled his career path after a high school criminal justice teacher who had been an NYPD police officer. Perrotto earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and criminal justice. With a master’s degree in education, he hoped to share his love of government and history with students and mentor those who were struggling.
But first, he wanted to be a police officer. After moving to Pennsylvania after he married, Perrotto joined the Lebanon City Police Department, but health problems required him to reconsider his career timeline after one year. He would have liked more time in law enforcement, but after coming to CCA, he realized that “God had some other plans” and he felt he had found his niche.
In the high-level criminal investigations elective, students play suspects and witnesses in interrogation scenarios and analyze virtual crime scenes. In one lesson, students review search-and-seizure procedures for a case loosely based on an actual robbery a Chinese restaurant that Perrotto and his wife frequented.
“I took some creative liberties to add some incorrect search steps that the students are supposed to recognize,” he said.
Like some of his students, Perrotto had some negative interactions with police as a kid, which inspired his pursuit of police work “to be a good role model.” He tells students why officers conduct traffic stops the way they do. When accusations of police misconduct are in the news, it’s an opportunity to talk about use of force, the appropriate steps officers should take and “how can we as citizens respond and communicate better and treat each other better as people?”
The “No. 1 skill of a police officer,” is communication, Perrotto tells students considering careers in law enforcement.
“You’re interacting with people,” he said. “People live with other people, and disagreements happen. Your job is to de-escalate the situation before it gets out of hand.”
Perrotto is a baseball fan who inherited his love of the New York Mets from his grandfather. He’s also a fan of Long Island native Billy Joel. He loves to hike, especially during the winter, “when there’s no snakes and bugs.” His children, ages 3 and 1, “keep me pretty busy,” he said.
Perrotto is chairman of CCA’s Student Assistance Program, a state-mandated initiative that helps students overcome barriers to learning outside of school, such as mental health and substance abuse issues. With “the background to deal with those situations in a calm and collected manner,” he helps families discuss next steps and find the resources to guide children through their challenges.
Perrotto said he believes every student who comes to CCA has a story.
“It’s important for us as teachers to learn that story – where they’re coming from, why they’re here, what their strengths and weaknesses are, what their hopes and dreams are for the future – and apply that in a way to individualize instruction,’’ Perrotto said. “We’re looking for opportunities to inspire them.”