PORTLAND – I can’t tell you much about TV news personalities in Maine. My apartment doesn’t have cable and the antenna on top of our old Sanyo limits itself to Channel 13 – and only when no one moves in the front half of the house.

But one news person I do feel as though I know is WGME meteorologist Dave Santoro. He makes weather interesting, with his constant arm waving and instructor-like explanations of jet streams and cold fronts.

The way he says, “And then tomorrow (long pause) SUNSHINE!” – the delivery makes you root for him to be right. And the exuberance and friendly demeanor he demonstrates before the camera – that’s not an act. Santoro is really like that.

Now think back to sixth grade. If Dave Santoro were standing in front of you delivering a pre-algebra lesson with the same kind of energy and sparkle in his eye he has shown for the past 15 years forecasting weather, would you be compelled to learn?

“A lot of kids learn to blow off math in middle school. I want to get everyone excited about math and science,” Santoro said last week, discussing his decision a few months ago to leave television and become a middle school math teacher. His last weather report will be May 25.

Santoro, 37, has been toying with the idea of leaving the weather desk for the classroom for a few years. He said he still loves weather, but he wants to spend time with his children, 4 and 6, and wife, Donalee, on a regular basis – a desire his 2 p.m.-to-midnight shift at WGME does not accommodate.

“Sometimes I literally wave to them from the car as I’m leaving and they’re coming,” Santoro, who lives in Gorham, said. “My schedule is exactly opposite their schedule.”

He has decided to enter the University of Southern Maine’s yearlong intensive education program, with the hope of getting a job at a local middle school in 2006.

His colleagues at WGME have been supportive of his decision, Santoro said, as have viewers, many of whom have sent well-wishes via e-mail.

Santoro plans to continue tracking the weather from his home, and said he feels pretty lucky to have spent the last 15 years being paid to practice his passion.

“I used to peddle the forecast to my neighbors,” Santoro, who grew up in Morris, Conn., said. “I was over-the-top geeky.”

Santoro eventually attended Lyndon State College in Vermont, where he studied meteorology and math. After college, he worked at a station in New Hampshire and at a radio station in Hartford, Conn. He took a job at WGME in 1989, and eventually become the station’s chief meteorologist.

“I’ve had a blast here,” Santoro said, “but I really think it’s time for a change.”

Kate Bucklin can be reached at [email protected]

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