Substitute Teacher Walks the Halls with Life Lessons to Impart

Within the oldest part of Ursuline’s campus, a Main Hall history classroom fills with the voices of AP U.S. History students. The lively voices quiet down as a short, energetic and suit-clad substitute teacher introduces himself as “Mr. Minervini.” Soon, the room once again fills with noise as the girls launch into discussion at their tables. Mrs. Ide, their regular teacher, has left instructions for the class on Blackboard: Trace the topics of immigration, women’s rights, African American rights, labor rights and foreign policy, before, during and after WWI.

Meanwhile, the substitute teacher is not settling down at the teacher’s desk to sit quietly or busy himself with other work. Instead, he walks over to the projector by the door and switches it on. The device projects an image onto the white board depicting the bygone front page of a New York City newspaper. The issue is dated May 1918, six months before the end of WWI. “American Boy’s Daring Escape From Austrian Camp” spreads across half the page in tall letters as the headline of the featured story. Mr. Minervini gets the attention of the class and tells them that the article is actually about one of his own family members, his great-uncle Ugo.

The front-page article about Minervini’s great-uncle Ugo. Father and sons are pictured; Ugo is on the far left and Ettore is in the center.

Ugo was a member of an Italian immigrant family, the youngest of four brothers and the son of Mr. Minervini’s great-grandparents Ettore and Assunta Minervini. Ugo was only 16 years old when he left the States for Italy, the country of his birth. Too young to join the U.S. army as his three older brothers would, Ugo’s aim was to join the Italian army. Following in his father’s footsteps, he joined the same specialty corps his father Ettore had served in for five years.

Long story short, while in combat, Ugo was captured by the opposing Austrians. He became a prisoner of war, forced to do manual labor and endure hunger. Eventually, Ugo took his chance and made a successful escape involving the assistance of a woman, swimming across a river and being shot at by both the Austrians and the British.

Mr. Minervini finished the story by identifying the correlation between his Italian immigrant great-uncle and the subject matter of the class discussion. Ugo’s experience was a vibrant and fascinating piece of personal connection for Mr. Minervini to contribute to the class. Mrs. Ide’s students oohed and aahed at the impressive story. It must have taken great determination on the part of Ugo to successfully escape from the Austrians.

Determination is, along with an industrious work ethic, a quality wholly present in Johan Minervini. Minervini, 54, is one of the newest substitute teachers hired by Ursuline. Not only his family history, but also his near-35 years of professional experience in business, technology and consulting make him well-equipped to educate. Perhaps not through lesson plans as of yet, but rather through stories such as the one about his great-uncle Ugo.

“I’ve always been interested in teaching…If I had ever won the lottery, I would have gotten a Ph.D. in something and started teaching,” Minervini said.

Minervini was hired as a substitute teacher in August after completing the required application process. A prospective substitute teacher must apply, undergo a background check, sit down for a 30-minute interview with Mrs. Smith, the academic dean, and meet with the principal, Dr. Shurley. “When hiring, we want substitutes to have a college degree. We prefer some type of classroom experience: it’s great if it’s someone who’s taught before,” said Smith.

Although Minervini himself does not have prior teaching experience, his varied and fruitful career along with his energy and enthusiasm mark him as a dynamic individual to have on campus. “I’ve always been interested in teaching…If I had ever won the lottery, I would have gotten a Ph.D. in something and started teaching,” Minervini said.

One of the more crucial events of Minervini’s life was his college internship with General Dynamics at the Air Force Plant 4 in Fort Worth. Back then, the plant built F-16 fighter aircraft and now builds F-22s. A 20-year-old at the time, Minervini was studying business administration and information systems at the University of North Texas, eventually graduating within the top 5 percent of his class. During his internship at the plant, Minervini worked in a lab in charge of the desktop support for more than 30,000 devices.

Minervini with his mother attending a wedding at the Dallas Arboretum last year.

Minervini interned at the plant off and on for three years, beginning in 1985. Other employees would wonder where Minervini was when he was away studying or waiting tables because they did not realize he was actually a student. To Minervini, his internship was key to the genesis of his career at the Air Force plant. At the end of his internship, Minervini became an employee there until almost 1997, working as a software engineer and later the head manager of over 40 engineers. He held multiple high-level security and special access clearances while at the plant, and also had the opportunity to work with a division that constructed nuclear submarines for the U.S. Navy.

In 1997, Minervini moved on to work for GTE, which later became Verizon. His positions were Principal Consultant, site representative and Telecommunications Consultant. Minervini oversaw the running of 10 servers that established service for voicemail across the country. He later designed a large data warehouse with 30 to 40 terabytes of storage that tracked all of the orders generated throughout the company. Minervini was there for 19 years, before being hired by Oncor in 2017 where he then was a program manager for 2 years.

In 2000, Minervini became the CEO of his own company that he named Minervini Consulting. The company is his principal occupation today; through which he provides project management services to various business, nonprofits and individuals. Currently, Minervini is working with the local software developer of a “holistic nonprofit management application,” he said.

One of the strongest ties Minervini has with Ursuline is his passion for service. His engaged role in service to the Dallas community matches Ursuline’s mission: “Serviam as a lived reality.” The motto of Ursuline is one aspect besides the learning environment and its motivated students that Minervini admires and respects.

Around 15 years ago, Minervini was introduced to the East Dallas Community Organization (EDCO), a local nonprofit. The nonprofit holds similarity to Habitat for Humanity as its purpose is to build affordable homes for veterans, seniors and families below the poverty line. Minervini became involved and joined the board of directors within a few years. Last October, he became the chairman of the board; previously holding the role of treasurer. “Our mission is to serve the needs of Dallas,” said Minervini.

As of now, Minervini is looking into becoming a full-time teacher at Ursuline as early as next fall. The variety of the subjects he would like to teach mirrors that of current teacher Mr. Biggs. “I classify myself as a sociable geek,” said Minervini, “I would love to teach history, math or technology.” As a prospective teacher, it is fitting that Minervini’s strength lies in being able to learn new things quickly. One of those skills is languages. He has learned both Spanish and a little bit of Italian.

Minervini’s role model and inspiration is his father, Virginio Minervini, who passed away twenty years ago. The deep motivation of his father inspired the “go, go, go” work ethic Minervini has developed over the years. One of the things Minervini’s father said to him often became an important life lesson to him. Minervini continues to pass his father’s advice on to classes he substitutes for. “Nothing is impossible,” Minervini said. “Don’t let anybody tell you something can’t be done. You have the power and ability.” Repeating his father’s words sends a chill up his spine. “That’s my father speaking through me,” he said.

Ettore and Assunta, Minervini’s Italian great-grandparents

To Ursuline students he also says: “Avail yourself of opportunities, apply for internships after your freshman year in college, and again, nothing is impossible.”


Send us your thoughts!