Randolph, NJ -- In the back of Randolph High School, in an athletic room not often used, a man full of inspirational and uplifting words told the story of his plans for retirement at the end of the school year, and his 20 year tenure in the Randolph Township School District.
“There are things in life that I would like to do with the family,” Coach Joe Lusardi says of his imminent retirement. He cited his three grown children, Laura, Joseph, and Vincent; and two grandchildren, Jordan and his namesake grandson, Joseph. “I have been named Joseph after my father, and I have a Joseph myself, so, it’s nice. It’s a name that follows us,” says Coach Lusardi with a smile. He has also been married to his wife, Joanne, “for 38 to 40 years,” as he puts it, and who was his high school sweetheart.
Coach Lusardi started his teaching career in 1976 at Ironia and Shongum elementary schools. “At Ironia, next to the field, we would go out and play, and cows would be there in the fence next to us,” Coach Lusardi recalls. “When I took the kids out for physical education, I had to check the kids for ticks. That’s the way it was then; it was more of a rural community.” After eight years of teaching, he took a break to care for his ill father, but returned to teaching in 1998, this time at RHS where he started out teaching gym and coaching baseball and basketball.
One of his main goals was to become head coach of the football team. “Football was my thing, and I always thought one day I would be a head coach here. One day,” says Coach Lusardi. In 2000, Coach Lusardi reached his goal and became head coach of the RAMS football team. “I reached my goal. It was probably one of the best days of my life, other than getting married and having my kids. It ranks right up there pretty high,” Coach Lusardi says, smiling because of the memory.
Years ago, Coach Lusardi played high school football, and that experience helped develop his interest in coaching the sport at the same level. He recalls the year 2010 when the Rams played at Giants Stadium, winning the state championship that season: “We had good kids; they bought into what I was saying, and it was a great season.”
Two thematic words Coach Lusardi followed throughout his life as a teacher are “time” and “patience.” The kids are the reason he continued to teach for “so long,” he says. From them, he learned to be patient and not to get upset over the small things.
Students and staff speak highly of Coach Lusardi through personal experiences. “Anxiety has been a problem for me ever since I was little and gym class would only make it worse,” says senior Jillian Smith, who was in Coach Lusardi’s class in the 2014-2015 school year. “He made me feel comfortable and safe in gym class, and that’s something no other gym teacher has been able to accomplish, not in all my four years at high school.”
“Mr. Lusardi is a great person as well as a teacher,” agrees senior Celine Pedalino. “He’s always happy to be in school, to see the kids, and no matter who, he’s always happy to see the students. You can tell he’s involved, and that he cares about us, and he shows it.”
Colleen Suflay, another gym teacher, chuckles when commenting on Coach Lusardi and the time working with him: “I have known coach Coach Lusardi for over 20 years, and over the course of time, I have not only learned from him, but I have grown to love him. He is an exceptional educator who is authentic, sincere, and devoted to his students. He epitomizes fairness, fine, respect, appreciation. Coach Lusardi is an amazing coach, educator, but most importantly, man.”
Coach Lusardi now looks to the future, which he says will consist of being with his family and volunteering his time to the community. He does not believe that he will ever return to teaching, and he leaves the students with this thought: “A great man said, ‘The hard things are easy, the impossible things take a little time.’ And if you keep that in mind, and you always work to go and solve it, that’s your answer. You’ll get it done.”
With the interview over, Coach Lusardi heads back to work wearing his trademark sweatshirt and ready smile, giving out handshakes to every student he encounters. He will continue to educate students until the final of day of school, when he will retire, or finally “graduate,” as he likes to put it, from Randolph High School.
Editor's Note : Nate Pangaro is a student at Randolph High School participating in a journalism program.