50 years later, Albo still spreads smiles

February 26, 2019

He wakes up every morning, grinning from ear to ear, managing to make his trek to work from Bloomfield with his briefcase in hand and crossword in the other. Now it’s 50 years later and the man everyone knows and loves, Don Albanese, is still making that same trek each morning. When students see him in the hallway, they can’t help but stop and call out for him. He has become as much a mascot as the Knight and the impression he has made on the lives of students can’t be matched.

“I love knowing that my teaching made an impact on someone,” Mr. Albanese said. “That’s the best feeling a teacher can have.”

Albo grew up in Newark and attended Central High School. He got his undergraduate degree and masters in education from Montclair State University and went on to teach math at Belleville High School in 1964. Soon after, he transferred to join the West Essex faculty in 1968. His expertise spanned multiple subjects, from Algebra I to Geometry to Pre-calculus. After 38 years educating full-time, he retired in 2002, but immediately returned to sub part-time.

Having been teaching for five decades, he has seen generations of families pass through West Essex’s halls.

“Something that I love about teaching is that I am able to see the kids that I teach and see their families grow through the years,” Mr. Albanese said. “I was in the middle school and a kid came up to me said ‘you had my mother in class’ and I think that’s really cool.”

Parting from a full-time life of teaching, Albo wasn’t ready to give up what had become second nature to him so he quickly became a substitute teacher.

“With subbing there was more flexibility and I still got the pleasure to teach,” Mr. Albanese said.
A main priority for Albo aside from teaching is being involved in the athletic department at school. He coached football for 30 years and currently coaches boys and girls tennis during the fall and spring. During the winter, he stays involved by working the clock at hockey games, basketball games and keeping score at other sporting events.

“I like coaching because the kids truly want to be doing the sport, and as a coach you can see them in a different atmosphere,” Mr. Albanese said.

In his 50 years working at West Essex, Mr. Albanese has seen firsthand the school environment change. The physical plant of West Essex grew from the high school to the middle school and then through the turf field and to what became known as the ‘senior parking lot’.

When he first arrived, there was no middle school, and what is now the senior parking lot, used to be a lot dedicated to teachers parking. Students were not allowed to drive to school until the mid 1990s.

“The biggest difference from when I started teaching to now is that the kids have much more freedom,” Mr. Albanese said.
Technology has been a major adaptation especially for the teachers and students in the math fields; The production of the calculator being a quick and easy resource for students has made finding the answer a simple resolution. Also, since students have more access to tools to help them study, the need to memorize equations and facts for their classes has diminished tremendously. The way in which students learn and study has changed.

However, what has made his experience at West Essex so incredible has been the students. Albo is a staple of exactly what West Essex embodies and students speak to this.

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