I’ve been asked many times “why did you become a teacher,” and my response is always the same: I smile reverently and share that I have loved everything about school since I entered Kindergarten as a 4 year old in 1965: I loved learning, my teachers, my classmates, recess, lunchtime, field trips, the incredible memories year in and year out and knew at a very young age that I would spend a career as a lifelong educator because I love kids! Growing up in a Catholic Italian-American family and raised in a baby boomer neighborhood filled with wonderful friends and memories, life in the Rizzo home revolved first around faith and the unconditional love of Jesus, followed by country and family and our Italian-American culture, school, friends, food, and a boatload of fun growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. As a boy, my Mom was the most significant influence on my life (and my 4 brothers) as she taught me about Jesus’ great love and lived this example herself. She also emphasized at a young age how important learning was as well as doing your best and competition, always playing hard and fair. Over the years we had many friends who entered the Rizzo home to watch a TV show or movie, play cards, or one of our many board games while growing up, watch the Olympics or a Sox, Bruins, Patriots, or Celtics game, eat a home cooked Italian meal from Mama Riz, or partake in a spirited backyard football, baseball, basketball, or hockey game in our backyard rink. The public school we all attended and loved bordered the Rizzo property as an extension of our home and thus a catalyst for me becoming an educator.
I began my vocation as a servant leader 34 years ago as a Middle School Social Studies teacher. Several years later while earning a Master’s Degree in Administration, I launched my leadership career as a Catholic School Principal in Massachusetts and for the past 29 years continued this leadership service to children and adults as a Public School Principal and Superintendent in Massachusetts and Vermont, Head of School in both Independent and Catholic Schools in Hawaii and Missouri, and recently retired Principal from the Massachusetts Public Schools. During my years as a school leader in Massachusetts, I served as an Adjunct Professor of Education at a Massachusetts State University teaching Graduate and Undergraduate courses while earning my Doctorate from the University of Massachusetts in 2004. Concurrently, I served as a High School Varsity Head Football and Lacrosse Coach for many years.
All of these experiences have shaped my philosophy as an educator but none more significant than Jesus’ own example of great love and compassion from the Gospels. This is why I am here to serve and lead our awesome students and adults at SJES even after my public school retirement. Every step of the way Jesus acted out of unconditional love and continues to be that light especially when things seem so dark. For nearly 30 years as a school leader whether I was a Principal, Superintendent, or Head of School in Catholic, Independent or Public Schools, I have asked our faculty and staff a tall order: to love our students unconditionally like our own, much like a parent or now for me, a grandparent would love a child. As educators this translates to always keeping the bar high regarding expectations challenging our students to do and be their very best, to laugh with them every day in school and if need be, cry with them, to hold them accountable but always with a lessons-learned approach, to support their hopes and dreams, and to support our students and staff by building a culture of continuous improvement and excellence. My beautiful wife Anne Marie and I raised our three grown children Andrew, Katie, and Joey with Jesus’ unconditional love and now what a blessing it is to see our two granddaughters Sierra and Maria know Jesus and his unconditional love. What a joy it is to be a part of this loving SJES faith-learning family with all of its traditions and I look forward to our continued growth!