New Jersey Teacher Has Not Missed Class in 29 Years
New Jersey language teacher Alphonse Dattolo has a Cal Ripken-esque streak going -- he has not missed a day of class in more than 5,100 days! Dattolo told Education World assistant news editor Ellen Delisio that good health and a love of teaching make his perfect attendance possible.
Alphonse Dattolo is the Cal Ripken Jr. of teaching.
On November 15, Dattolo, who teaches world languages in the Glen Rock, New Jersey, school system, posted 5,152 consecutive days of teaching -- 29 years worth! He has taught through colds, fevers, and dizziness, all with encouragement from his students.
Ripken's 16-year, 2,632-game playing streak drew national attention. Now, Dattolo's achievement has earned him admittance to the record books.
Dattolo celebrated his 5,000th day on the job on January 11, 2000. When interviews with local newspapers and television stations appeared, news of Dattolo's streak spread. In the past few months, he has been interviewed by People magazine and appeared on the NBC-TV Today show. Staff for The Oprah Winfrey Show contacted him about a possible appearance.
"My students are more excited than I am," Dattolo joked. "They want to see me on TV They brought in copies of the People magazine for me to autograph."
A love for teaching and a sturdy constitution make the streak possible, Dattolo told Education World.
"I have good health, thank God, and a dedication to what I do," Dattolo, said. "It's fun. The day it becomes a job, it may not be fun." Dattolo said he has had his share of colds but has never been seriously ill. He thinks attitude affects how people react when they feel sick. "You have to have a positive psyche and tell yourself you're not sick."
Dattolo teaches French and Spanish to eighth graders at Glen Rock Middle School and ninth graders at Glen Rock High School. His teaching day does not end with the last bell, however. A Philadelphia Phillies fan and devotee of baseball history, Dattolo advises an after-school baseball history club at the middle school. About 20 students, boys and girls, attend weekly meetings. Dattolo also serves as an adjunct professor at William Patterson College, in Wayne, New Jersey, and at Bergen County (New Jersey) Community College.
"I just enjoy being with students and seeing them grow academically," Dattolo said. "I always tell my students it's important to do what you love."
Richard Kesin, principal of the 530-pupil Glen Rock Middle School, said staff members are getting used to the media presence at the school. He noted that the attention paid to Dattolo is positive for the school and the teaching profession.
"Anything positive related to teachers is positive," Kesin told Education World. "He is a very effective teacher and indicates a measure of dedication to the profession. That is a value we try to inculcate into all our students."
Dattolo's dedication is apparent not just in the number of days he has honored his commitment but also in the number of hours he spends with students. "He works hard with kids before and after school," Kesin said. "He is a popular teacher."
That extra time Dattolo puts in is consistent with his philosophy of being an educator, not just a teacher.
"A teacher teaches the subject matter," Dattolo said. "An educator goes beyond that to help students with other aspects of their lives. Especially these days, students need someone consistent and dedicated in their lives."
Dattolo first became aware of his attendance record in 1972, his second year of teaching, when he was working at Manchester Regional High School, in Haledon, New Jersey. A student mentioned that she could not remember his ever being absent, and she started keeping track of his attendance on a chart on the wall. After that, Dattolo began keeping track himself.
The closest the streak ever came to ending was in 1988, said Dattolo. He woke up with a high fever but went to school anyway. During his first class, he felt flushed and light-headed but recovered after drinking some orange juice one of his students got from the cafeteria.
Dattolo said he does not put extra pressure on himself because of the streak. "I take one day at a time," he said. "I put it in God's hands. I can't worry about it. What you can't control, you can't worry about."
Article by Ellen R. Delisio
Copyright © 2006 Education World