Catapano to retire after a lifetime of teaching


Hannah Katzke, Contributing Writer

After 28 years of teaching at the school, history teacher Claude Catapano is retiring.
In February, Catapano announced his plan to retire at the end of the school year, and he plans to keep busy at home and help his mother, who is living with cancer in Vermont. He also has plans to collaborate with a friend writing sports history articles. And, as a Mets fan, Catapano dreams of getting season tickets, he said.
For his first seven years at the school, Catapano worked as a College Counselor and history teacher. He then became a full-time teacher and taught AP US History, US History, and Atlantic World History. He has also created and taught the electives Contemporary US History, US Legal History, and Classical World Civilizations.
“The electives I’ve created have a special place in my heart,” Catapano said. “They allowed me to pursue my different intellectual interests and to experiment with the curriculum.”
Having Catapano as a teacher was extremely helpful because he understands that his students were always under a lot of stress, Ahaan Palla (12), a member of Catapano’s Classical World Civilizations course said. “What I love about being in Mr. Catapano’s class is that we can always have fun while learning history,” he said.
“I’ve been blessed to work with amazing colleagues and, in my humble opinion, teaching at the finest high school in the world with the greatest faculty,” Catapano said. But it’s the classroom that makes the school so special, he said. “There is absolutely no better feeling than when a class is excited and the students move beyond simply understanding the materi
al to making it their own.” Moreover, what makes students at the school so special is how they strive for academic success while also supporting and celebrating one another’s accomplishments, he said.
Besides teaching, Catapano has been part of many activities within the school. He has been involved with the Student Government, The Record, Excelsior, The Committee on Instruction, and the Faculty Compensation and Benefits Committee, he said.
Some of his fondest memories come from the time when he was a Faculty Advisor for The Record, Catapano said. While working on the paper’s 100th anniversary, he had the opportunity to talk to a collection of former reporters and editors. “Their commitment to the school, The Record and to journalistic integrity was incredible,” he said. “The Record is the sine qua non of HM.”
Catapano makes learning enjoyable for his students; you can tell how much he loves teaching the subject, Ethan Fry (9) said. “I love the classroom atmosphere he creates,” he said.
While Catapano is an amazing history teacher, he is also influential to his students, Benjamin Goodman (12) said. “I love that Mr. Catapano teaches by telling a story, and makes each lesson more engaging than the last he said,” he said.
Zachary Ludwig (9) enjoys how Catapano’s class is fun to be in, while still learning a lot of history, he said. “He has taught me that school is not all about grades and more about improving and growing as a person,” he said.
Catapano is a great influence within the History Department, history teacher and Eleventh Grade Dean Dr. Susan Groppi said. Catapano genuinely cares about his students and wants them to succeed not just academically but as people, she said.
Catapano taught him how to have a more positive outlook on life and has served as a powerful resource and teacher, Goodman said.
Every morning before class starts, Catapano checks in with each of his students about topics such as their weekend, pets, and movies they had seen, Clementine Bondor (9) said. “People often underestimate the importance of little conversations and how-are-you’s like those; they really make a difference,” she said.
One of Fry’s favorite moments this year came at the end of the first semester when his class had finished their papers. The class watched fun crash course history and animal videos while relaxing and talking with one another, Fry said. “The party showed how much Mr. Catapano cares for his students and how he wants to relieve stress and make life as easy as possible for everyone,” he said.
“The students are, in the end, what makes HM so special,” Catapano said. “The life of the mind definitely makes life worth living.”
“During Project X he taught the last five minutes of class through the hallway to protect us from getting tagged on our way to our next class,” Bailey Hecht (9) said. Catapano has taught her that she can still have fun while learning, Hecht said.
Catapano’s Atlantic World History class is the highlight of Bondor’s morning. “A few chocolate chip cookies and puppy videos really have the power to brighten someone’s week,” she said.
For Malcolm Furman (9), Catapano’s class has been a welcoming environment that allows for diverse conversations. “Mr. Catapano is an incredible teacher and I feel extremely lucky to have been part of his class this year,” he said.
Mr. Catapano’s classroom has been a fun learning environment, Leah Rakhlin (11) said. Catapano has been one of her favorite history teachers and she will miss him so much, she said.
Throughout his time at the school, Catapano wanted his students to love learning, he said. “I can only hope that my students appreciate that what I tried to do, what all the teachers at HM try to do – to impart the beauty and wonder of learning something new,” Catapano said.
“He is a beloved faculty member and we all wish him luck in his retirement,” Hecht said.