January 9 – Happy Birthday Lewis Rosemarino

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Great teachers make great impacts on our lives. I always wondered why students weren’t involved in the teacher evaluation process because in my opinion, nobody knows them better. Lou Rosemarino was the best teacher I ever had in the Amsterdam school district.

I had not known back then when I was his student that he was born in Italy on January 9, 1938. His family moved to this country and settled in Gloversville, NY. Rosemarino graduated from that city’s public high school and got a Bachelors degree from Cortland State and Masters from both Albany State and Union College. He started working as a Math teacher in the Amsterdam School District in 1961. He became my math teacher seven years later.

I was in what they then called an “honors” math class in 9th grade, taking geometry and he was our instructor. I had pretty much coasted through math up until then, understanding it well enough to maintain a B average without much effort. A “B” grade was the “Mom & Dad will be happy” standard in our household. But the coasting wasn’t working in Geometry. I was barely getting C’s and D’s on his exams. I would mollify my parents by telling them I was taking tenth grade math in ninth grade but Rosemarino was having none of it. He knew I was coasting and he was determined not to let me. He was the only teacher I ever had who used all of the following teaching methods: He would come in early and stay late to offer extra help; He would try to teach you something new and significant every single day, treating every single second of class time like it was a spoonful of water in the middle of a desert. He would give you homework every day and he would check it every day; He would answer every student’s question but he would not hold up the rest of the class for the sake of one or a few students who couldn’t get it. Instead he’d “ask” those students to “spend some extra time with him” before or after school. If you didn’t have your homework done, you were also invited to these extra curricular get-togethers.

He approached me one day after I underwhelmed him with my application of a theorem and told me he knew I wasn’t working hard and he wasn’t going to watch me become a lazy-good-for-nothing math student on his watch. Even then, I resisted, as teenagers often do when confronted by authority. But he persisted, and forced me to appreciate the subject matter’s significant importance to figuring out so many things in the real world.

Then one day, he missed our class. It felt like a National Holiday to me. But then I learned that Mr. Rosemarino, who was just 30 years old at the time, had been diagnosed with cancer and was forced to undergo radiation and chemo treatments, I think he missed a grand total of four weeks and when he got back he looked much thinner and instead of walking continuously up and down the rows of our desks as he usually did, he spent a lot more time sitting at his. But he still had that look in his eye and that passion in his voice.

That year, so many tenth graders failed the NYS geometry Regents exam that the state actually curved the final marks so that 55 became the passing grade instead of 65. Not one of the approximately 50 ninth graders in Mr. Rosemarino’s class got lower than a pre-curve 70 on that exam and I got a 95! I still to this day apply some of the things Mr. Rosemarino taught me when I’m trying to get something done that I really have a tough time doing.

He retired from teaching in 1995 and nine years later he passed away. He and his wife Barbara lost their beloved daughter DeAnn in 1990. Their son Dean gave them four grandchildren who I’m willing to wager turned out to be pretty good math students.

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