‘One of a kind.’ Colleagues, friends honor longtime Batavia City School District phys. ed. teacher Del Plato

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While they say anyone can be replaced, finding someone with the compassion, knowledge and personality of physical education teacher Carmen Del Plato will certainly be a huge challenge for the Batavia City School District.

Del Plato, who grew up in a large and close-knit Italian-American family south of Batavia, retired Tuesday after 23 years in the district – 13 at Jackson Primary and the last 10 at John Kennedy Intermediate.

About 100 friends, family and coworkers celebrated his career at Eli Fish Brewing Company on Main Street last night.

Brian Sutton, director of JK, said Vine Street school won’t be the same without the energetic and resourceful Del Plato in the classroom.

“Mr. Del Plato is borderline irreplaceable. He’s one of a kind,” said Sutton. “There’s nothing Mr. Del Plato wouldn’t do for the kids here at John Kennedy.

“I tell everyone that they almost go under the radar because they do all the little things. He goes through the cafeteria, helps children with lunch. He talks to the students about more than just physical education when they’re in the gym. He really connects with the children and has high expectations and a high standard of them – and they meet him. “

Sutton, in his sophomore year as headmaster, said he relied on Del Plato and admired his teaching method.

“Mister. Del Plato has a lot of Batavia experience and knowledge … I have turned to him really often to get a feel for the building and the things he has seen and tried to learn from his experience while simply looking at him just watched and how he behaves as a professional, “he offered.” It’s really unfortunate (he’s retiring) although I’m very happy for him that he took this next step and that he will definitely be missed . “

Physical Education colleague Dan Geiger, who has worked with Del Plato for the past decade, called him “a tremendous addition to our district and our community.”

“Carmen can still name all the families in the neighborhood from her childhood, and it will simply be a great loss for the district,” said Geiger. “He has such a great connection with the children and the families. The excitement it brings – the great amount of discipline and respect children show him. It’s just a sad day for our district, but I can’t be happier for it. “

Del Plato thanked his well-wishers as he looked back on his time in the school district – and remembered the unfortunate beginning that almost never happened.

“I owe a lot. First of all, I’m grateful for my job, ”he said. “I trained three sports in 1998 and Pep Johnson retired and Buddy (Brasky) moved from Jackson to high school and a job became open. And I applied for the position. And I was in New York State School for the Blind and I was in summer school and I called to see if they called for interviews. “

Del Plato said he was told that calls were being made for interviews, but his phone did not ring.

“I didn’t even get a call for an interview. And I was so desperate. I mean, I practiced three sports. I’ve kissed everyone’s butt. And I didn’t get an interview, ”he said, causing a big laugh. “That same day, Nancy Viola (former sports director) called my wife and said, ‘Why didn’t Carm apply for the job?’

“And my wife (Debra, Williamson Middle School teacher) said, ‘He applied for the job; he submitted the application by hand. ‘ She (Viola) says: ‘I’ll call you back in a moment.’ So Nancy did some of her magic and I’ll get an interview the next day I think. Thank goodness Skip Bonacquisti was on the interview committee and I was hired. It was so close and I might not have got the job. I will never forget that. Thank you, Nancy Viola. “

Del Plato said he was grateful that he got his first job at Jackson School – one block from his home – and that he was able to work with one of his pals, Val Zinni, a longtime caretaker in the district.

He mentioned that it was exciting to see the kids grow from kindergarten through fifth grade. This group included his son and daughter.

“I got the chance to tutor my son Joey and daughter Marcella and I haven’t given anyone special treatment,” he said. “If I had your son or daughter, they would have to be able to tow the leash, especially my children. You couldn’t call me daddy at work. “

He announced that one day his son forgot his sneakers and had to sit in a break.

“I sent his mother a nasty letter,” he joked again, to the delight of his audience. “And my daughter knew the rule that she couldn’t call me daddy. One day … she was on the end of the line and when she walked out she whispered, ‘Hello Daddy.’ I said get out of here. “

Del Plato thanked his helpers and spoke about his “partner in crime” violinist.

“Dan likes to take risks. I don’t like to take risks. If I wanted to make balloons with the kids, he’d go dog sledding with the kids. When I wanted to make ribbons with the kids, he wanted to put a zip line across the gym. But I think we both made ourselves better teachers, ”he said.

Geiger said he learned a lot from Del Plato, including the pronunciation of every vowel (in the names) of the people of Batavia to the south.

“I learned a lot about the Italian background,” said Geiger. “I know a few Italian words but I’m not sure if to say them because he really never tells me the real (meaning) so I could get in trouble. But I can’t thank Carm enough for the time we spent together. He really helped me develop as a teacher and as a person. “

Del Plato actually served 35 years in the New York State pension system, starting with Genesee Valley’s alternative education program BOCES in 1986 and moving to NYSSB in 1988, where he was a childcare worker and teaching assistant for five years. From 1993 to 1998 he worked at Geneseo Central School, Geneseo State College and St. Anthony’s School in Batavia.

Photos by Steve Ognibene

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The physical education teacher Dan Geiger presents Del Plato with a present.

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Mike Bromley, Batavia City School District Director of Health, Physical Education and Athletics, enters Del Plato special ball he ordered for his physical education class.

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Bromley recognizes Del Plato’s contributions with a Blue Devil Forever plaque. “In gratitude for your outstanding commitment and the care and support of the many, many students in the Batavia City school district from 1998 to 2021.”

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Del Plato and Val Zinni play as Elwood and Jake – The Blues Brothers, which has been a hit in Batavia for many years.

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