Career turnover

Mason Rocca transitions from pro basketball player to math teacher

Hailey Fine, Feature Editor

“I loved all sports as a kid, but basketball was my favorite”, says Rocca.

Basketball has always been a huge part of Rocca’s life since he started playing in around 4th  grade.

“There was a hoop in our alley growing up and I spent a lot of my free time out there playing. I really loved that you could play on your own or with other people, which you can’t do with all other sports,” Rocca adds.

After attending Baker middle school, and then graduating from ETHS, Rocca got into Princeton University in 1996.

“I was lucky enough to be recruited to play basketball by some of the Ivy League schools, and my grades were good enough to get me in,”  Rocca says.

At Princeton he got a major in electrical engineering while playing on their basketball team. When he graduated from in 2000, Rocca moved to Italy where he continued to play basketball for their top league. There, he became known for his signature hook shot , married his high school sweetheart and had five kids. He and his family lived in different parts of Italy for a total of 14 years.

Rocca fell in love with teaching while he was homeschooling his kids to learn English in Italy. He wanted to become a teacher after he retired because he wanted to give back. There was a lot for him to adjust to after coming from a career that mostly focuses on individual improvement.

“I consider myself very fortunate to have been able to pursue my dream career as a professional basketball player,” Rocca says. “When I retired, I knew that I wanted to find a way to use my skills and experiences to make an impact and help others.”

Rocca is a current graduate student at Northwestern, and recently received a five year fellowship from the Knowles Science Teaching Program. He is teaching Algebra 2 Honors  at ETHS, his first year ever teaching in a classroom. It’s a challenging job, but the outcome is worth it.

“I believe that education is the most important gift you can give to someone. It is empowering and it can change a person, and they can then change the world,” says Rocca.

His philosophy for education is that there are “30 teachers in one class”.   He says this because he wants his students to learn how to use each other as a source of education too.

Rocca chose to teach math because of what he experienced when dealing with taxes and contracts. He always had a passion for math but some of his friends really struggled with it, so they had a harder time managing their money.

“Many of these teammates were taken advantage of because they didn’t have the basic math skills to feel that they could confidently understand what was going on,” he says. “I see this happening in many fields, not just professional basketball.”

Rocca is excited to give back and help others in his new profession. So if you see this 6’8’’ man walking in the hallways, make sure to say  ciao!