When Alphonse Dattalo first began teaching, Richard Nixon was president, The Godfather was a hit movie, and Cal Ripken was a 12-year-old pup in Little League. Twenty-eight years later, Dattalo is set to extend an iron-man streak that puts Ripken’s run of 2,632 consecutive games to shame. On September 15, he will open the new school year and log his 5,104th day in the classroom without an absence.
A New Jersey native (and high school classmate of Bruce Springsteen), Dattalo taught his first class on September 5, 1972, at a high school in the northern part of the state. For the past 12 years, he’s taught Spanish and French at a middle school in the town of Glen Rock.
Is Dattalo’s streak a record? No one seems to know, but it’s particularly impressive when you consider that the 5,000-and-counting tally doesn’t include his extensive summer work at local universities and community colleges. In July, we invited the teacher to take a train to Baltimore and have his photograph taken with Ripken at the Orioles’ stadium. Dattalo, a baseball nut and avid Philadelphia Phillies fan, reluctantly declined. He was busy teaching, naturally.
Q:Did you have perfect attendance as a student?
A: I missed half a day in 7th grade. I had to get a flu shot.
Q:Would you play hooky for box seats at a World Series seventh game?
A: Possibly, if the Phillies were playing.
Q:What’s the highest fever you’ve ever taught with?
A: 101 degrees.
Q:Do you take vitamins?
Q:What’s your favorite school lunch?
A: Tuna fish sandwich.
Q:Why do you think it’s important to be in class every day?
A: I want to set a positive example for my students.
Q:Do your colleagues think you’re crazy?
A: Some do.
Q:Have you seen Springsteen in concert?
A: I have never seen him play. His grandfather married my aunt.
Q:How long do you vacation?
A: Two weeks in August.
Q:What’s you secret?
A: I love my profession. Doing something you love doesn’t feel like work.
Q:When will the streak end?
A: Hopefully when I retire.