Mr. Grillo: 2013 Teacher of the Year

by Jeff

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Every year, Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School recognizes the hard work and dedication of one staff member, and names him or her “Teacher of the Year.” This year, that award was given to Bill Grillo, RFH’s resident music man.

Growing up, Mr. Grillo did not always want to be a music teacher. While majoring in Jazz Performance as an undergraduate student, he decided to enroll in a five-year program to get his Masters degree in education. He looked to many teachers as inspiration, specifically his longtime percussion teacher, who taught him from eighth grade and throughout high school, as well as as a professor at his college.

Mr. Grillo teaches AP Music Theory, Music Theory, Songwriting and Recording, and Percussion Ensemble. On top of teaching these electives, he also is the fearless leader of the Marching Band, Jazz Band, and Pit Orchestra. While juggling these classes with these time-demanding activities can be a struggle, Grillo feels as if now is the perfect time in his life to take on such a heavy workload.

“I don’t have a family of my own yet, so I’m at a good point in my life where I can dedicate a lot of time to this school.”

Grillo has always had a passion for jazz bands, as it was his major in college. However, recently he has found more and more enjoyment from being the conductor of the pit orchestra.

“Throughout my life, I’ve worked in a lot of theaters, mostly as a drummer in a pit orchestra. I never ever saw myself conducting a pit orchestra; that’s something I really thought I would never have to do. Now, I really enjoy doing that because the culture here is really supportive of theatre.”

Conducting the pit orchestra led to one of Mr. Grillo’s proudest accomplishments at RFH, conducting the score to the 2011 spring musical, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.

“Personally, there were many points throughout that production that I thought there was no way that I could do it, and there was no way that the pit orchestra could do it. It’s some of Stephen Sondheim’s hardest stuff. When we finished that Friday night performance, I couldn’t believe that we not only got through it, but it was extremely, extremely good.”

According to Mr. Grillo, the best part about his job is working with extremely talented people. The worst part of his job is paperwork.

“I do significantly less [paperwork] than, let’s say, a math teacher or an English teacher. I could never do their job because of all the paperwork.  But then again, they also really love to teach math and English, so that’s the tradeoff.”

I asked this year’s Teacher of the Year to offer advice to any RFH students who are considering teaching as a profession.

“You have to find a balance between being a friendly person and being a straight-forward teacher. You’re with your students 180 days of the year, so it can’t be all business all the time. You have to develop a relationship, but you can’t let that relationship get out of hand to the point where they don’t respect you or do any of your work.”

Over the past four years, Mr. Grillo has gotten better and better at developing this balance with his students.

Grillo is thrilled to be working here at RFH. He has developed an outstanding relationship with the administration.

“The fact that the administration here trusts me to do what I do makes me really proud. On a daily basis, they don’t bug me, they don’t look over my shoulder, they put a lot of faith in me to run everything smoothly and run the department how I want.”

While Mr. Grillo loves it here at RFH, he offered me some things that he would like to have added to the school.

“I would like to see some days built into the schedule that break the regular mold of the routine. When I was student teaching in Cherry Hill, they had a multi-cultural day where, basically, they had a bunch of workshops and assemblies that were based around other cultures.  It was really educational and it broke up the regular routine.”

While he’s not molding the minds of young musicians or winning awards for his masterful conducting, Mr. Grillo enjoys cooking with his girlfriend. The best meal that he ever made was a linguini with a white wine butter sauce and scallops. However, he is clueless when it comes to baking.

“I can’t bake. I literally tried simple brownies from a package, and I screwed it up.”

Mr. Grillo’s passion for music and teaching was extremely evident during my interview. I encourage any underclassmen who are remotely interested in music or music theory to sign up for one of Mr. Grillo’s classes. Prospective students need not to worry, Grillo does not play favorites. When I asked him who his favorite students were, he respectfully declined.

Clearly his passion has rubbed off on many of his students.

“Grillo is a great guy because he’s just as much a musician as he is a teacher–he’s always eager to learn about new music and talk about different musicians. Aside from that, he’s just a gentleman and a scholar. He can bring out the music in anyone,” said senior Ben Sherman.

“I’ve been with Grillo since his first day at RFH, and I have loved every moment of it,” said senior Josh Reed.

“Grillo is an amazing music teacher who can work in a classroom setting yet also is always available for extra help. No matter how hard a topic may seem, after Grillo has explained it, it’s simple,” said senior Clare Fitzgerald.

Award-winning thespian Harry Best also chimed in on Mr. Grillo: “Mr. Grillo is wonderful to work with during the musicals. Over the years he has taught me so much about music, and he’s always patient and understanding while students attempt to grasp some of the more difficult songs. His Teacher of the Year Award is well deserved.”

Grillo has left his mark on many alumni. Class of 2011 alum Gabby Kenny told me, “Grillo has actually been one of those teachers that was a life-changer for me and my friends who knew him during my time at RFH, and I didn’t even have him for a teacher! I worked with him in the musicals and concerts, and he was the first person in my life that empowered me to think about pursuing vocal music as a career. No matter how sassy he may get at the end of the day at a long Tower Players practice, I have a deep respect and my hat’s off to one of RFH’s finest. Congrats Grill, YOU DID IT!”

This positive sentiment was echoed with every student and alum I spoke to. When asked what winning Teacher of the Year meant to him, Mr. Grillo responded in an expectedly humble and endearing manner.

“Since being given the award, it’s been really nice to have the other faculty say ‘Congratulations’ and ‘Well deserved.’ Obviously, there’s so many other teachers who have been here longer and work equally as hard, and maybe they’re not as noticed in the community because they’re in a classroom all day.  But it’s definitely nice to go to work and know that people respect what you do. It’s nice that people have faith in you.”

In a world in which the arts are growingly and unjustly perceived as less and less important, it is wonderful to see a music teacher as dedicated and beloved as Grillo receive this recognition. Congratulations, Mr. Grillo, on a well deserved Teacher of the Year Award.

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RFH Honors Mrs. Fitzgerald as Teacher of the Year

by Brooke

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An important quality of Rumson Fair Haven Regional High School is its highly qualified and exceptional staff. RFH recently decided on the winner of the Teacher of the Year Award. The well-deserved winner of this year was Mrs. Fitzgerald, one of its social studies teachers.

There is a process when deciding Teacher of the Year.  Students, teachers, staff, and community members can nominate teachers and submit a statement listing their positive qualities.  Then, a committee comprised of students and staff select a winner from a point-scale. 

Mrs. Fitzgerald was very surprised; the principal along with other faculty members told her she won right before they announced it over the loud speaker. She was delighted to receive such an honor.

“Everyone in my class and in the hallways were congratulating me,” Mrs. Fitzgerald explained.  The praise and support of students shows that the hardworking teachers at RFH are doing a good and important job.

Mrs. Fitzgerald went to Malboro High School in New Jersey. She did not seriously decide that she wanted to be a teacher until graduate school; however, when she was little she wanted to be a teacher. In college she was thinking about being a lawyer, but the classes she took allowed her to realize she did not want to pursue that career path and profession. She became a teacher by working at RFH and working with a mentor teacher. The experience helped her develop and grow as an educator.

 “Teaching cannot be taught in a class. It comes with experience among the years,” she added.

This year is Mrs. Fitzgerald’s seventh year teaching history. She teaches a variety of classes, but specializes in an elective titled “The Sixties.”  Other than teaching, she is the junior class advisor and cheerleading coach.

Mrs. Fitzgerald’s favorite aspect of teaching is getting to know her students and helping them. Not only does she want them to do well in school, but she also wants them to make the right choices later in life.

Mrs. Fitzgerald was thrilled when she won teacher of the year because it is nice to get acknowleged for the hard work that all teachers do every day. Also, she believes many staff members should win the award because of how hardworking and accomplished everyone is.  She believes that RFH has the best staff with students who are supportive and maintain school spirit.

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Teacher of the Year: Mr. Galante

by Ali Christ

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The Teacher of the Year Award nominates a teacher based on his or her outstanding and unparalleled performances in educating and encouraging students. For the 2009-2010 school year, history teacher Mr. Galante was awarded this title.

Mr. Galante has taught at RFH for seven years. He also taught across the street at Forrestale for fifteen years. His hobbies include running, boating, and fishing.  However, his favorite is teaching.

Galante holds his students spellbound

Mr. Galante teaches SUPA History, Law, and History 1 Honors. He even speaks French and is extremely gifted with the harmonica. He challenges his students, but at the same teaches them in a way that is both fun and interesting. His dynamic nature and creative activities make his classroom and history come alive, and gives each student the opportunity to see history from various perspectives and roles.  Mr. Galante is dedicated to his job and to his students. He uses every second he has for each class to provide them with knowledge and insight of the subject.

Mr. Galante is not only focused on helping students in school, but outside of school as well. He wants his students to take his lessons and apply them to the real world. Mr. Galante has put a lot of time out of his own schedule to meet with his students to help them, which seems perfect because all of his students LOVE to be around him.

For example, Mr. Galante is notorious for rocking out with his students and playing music after school. He has played with students like Patrick Hill and Adam Black. His love for music has also been beneficial by teaching students the essentials for music.

His passion for music started out with Simon and Garfunkel, The Beatles, Rolling Stones, basically all of the great classics. One significant person in his life was his old neighbor, Joe Castle. Joe was a very talented harmonica player who immediately transformed Mr. Galante’s life. He introduced Mr. Galante to the blues of music. Unfortunately, Joe recently passed away. However, his music still lives within Mr. Galante’s heart. He promises to continue playing until he and Joe meet again in another life.

Mr. Galante also mentioned his special bond with his wife, Linda. He and Linda are very close and very alike. He and his wife, Linda, are working on their own novel that he hopes to finish this summer. He is very excited to finish and hopes to publish all of his hard work.

Mr. Galante is truly a fascinating man that has seen a lot of things in the world. He has a keen eye to his ethics not only just for school, but for the outside world. He has a great amount of experience as an educator and this reflects upon his students. He is very charismatic and a burst of energy. Every day is a new day to help expand his student’s minds.

Mr. Galante is without a doubt a very respectable man. You can see that in his work ethics, his goals in life, and even just holding a conversation with him. I’ve never spoken to a more dedicated worker who truly enjoys his job. As an eloquent speaker, he holds great moral values that should be shared with every student. It would be in everyone’s best interest to meet Mr. Galante because of his abundance to knowledge and his inspiring accomplishments.

Congratulations, Mr. Galante!  You deserve it!

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