Students were political canvassers, escape room artists, physicists, fashionistas, inventors, thought leaders, collaborators, activists, change agents, and boat builders, among many other identities, during Project Week 2019.
After 19 years as beloved Assistant Headmaster and Lower School Director, and another 26 years as a Short Hills faculty member, Ted Corvino P '94, '97, '02 will retire with the close of the 2018-19 school year.
Every morning, rain or shine, for nearly the last two decades, Mr. Corvino has greeted students by name with a handshake and a smile. Holding fast to his insistence that he learn all students' names ("the more quickly you make them feel like School is their home, their community, the better they feel"), he has memorized thousands over the last five decades. He has also attended more weddings of alumni than he can count. In recognition of his contributions to the Lower School, and following the Short Hills modernization in 2015, grateful donors named the new, welcoming lounge as you enter the building, The Theodore M. Corvino Lower School Commons. He famously resisted the honor.
During his 45-year tenure, as both teacher and administrator, Mr. Corvino's imprint has been indelible, helping to evolve the school from a traditional, classroom-centered educational experience (where a teacher was known, in his words, as "the sage on the stage") to one that harnesses its verdant campus as a dynamic outdoor laboratory for students to engage and explore collaboratively. Upper School history teacher and Director of Experiential Education Mr. John Crowley-Delman '97, a lifer who was once Mr. Corvino's social studies student, credits him with turning the Lower School into "a child's world." Headmaster Nat Conard P '09, '11 reflects, "Ted epitomizes what we all aspire to be as educators: a passionate, lifelong learner who supports the faculty and staff and puts the students first in every way. I will miss our brainstorming sessions, Ted's stories—of which there are many!—and particularly greeting the students with him in the morning."
A pivotal figure in advancing the culture of the Lower School, Mr. Corvino's legacy is perhaps most closely entwined with the faculty with whom he has worked. As they will tell you, his greatest impact has been his guiding leadership and support of their ideas. When, for example, science teacher Heather Smith P '16 wanted to create a teaching garden several years ago, he was enthusiastically on board. Recently, when she partnered with the art department to bring students into the garden for a multidisciplinary lesson on the art and science of pumpkins, he was right there with them, spending the better part of an hour designing his own pumpkin masterpiece on paper.
"He has brought a lot of positive change to the School. He listens, and he's open to just about anything, within reason, that faculty want to try, whether it's a workshop we want to attend or an idea we're passionate about," says third grade teacher Patti Euwer P '97, who began at Pingry in 1986, 12 years after Mr. Corvino. "But for me, it's his love of the students and his love of the School that really stand out. That just emanates in everything that he does."
A New Jersey-native and graduate of Muhlenberg College, where he earned a degree in History, Mr. Corvino was just 23 years old when he arrived at Pingry in the fall of 1974, the same year that the School merged with Short Hills Country Day School and became coed. He began as a fifth grade history and P.E. teacher, and, for years, also coached three seasons of sports, at a time when the Lower School offered interscholastic athletics. He even had a stint early on as a Pingry bus driver, when the School had its own small fleet, a responsibility that added several hours to his already full day as a teacher. At his very first Commencement Exercises on the Hillside Campus, he was last in line among faculty, he recalls with a chuckle. Last spring, he was third, behind only Upper School math teacher Manny Tramontana P '85, '87 and Special Assistant to the Headmaster Miller Bugliari '52, P '86, '90, '97, GP '20, '24. "I went to a small school in East Hanover when it was all farms. Being a public school kid, the whole concept of an independent school was foreign to me when I arrived at Short Hills," he says. "It was an eye-opening experience in every way."
He was a natural, gifted teacher, and quickly became a part of the Pingry community. "I was a substitute teacher in other schools, including at Pingry, before my full-time position here, and was always impressed by the small class sizes, how well behaved the kids were, and how much they really wanted to learn," he says. Eventually, he moved on to teach Grade 6 social studies, and was named Lower School Director in 2000, shortly before 9/11 ("It was the most challenging day I've ever had," he remembers). Until the Middle School opened and welcomed Grade 6 to the Basking Ridge Campus in 2007, he continued to teach. It was a role he missed—the one-on-one time with students—when administrative duties became primary. "He's just a family man, and he brings all of those family values here," says Mrs. Euwer. "When you see the kids walking down the halls with smiles on their faces, that's because of Ted. He worries about us like he worries about his own family." Indeed, having his own three children—Teddy '94, Bobby '97, and Amy '02—attend Pingry (all three passed, willingly or not, through his classroom), is a memory he cherishes. "Driving to school every day with my kids was a blessing. We talked about things that happened in school as if it was 'our school.'"
As the Pingry "lifer" tradition goes, Mr. Corvino has unarguably earned the honor. "Forty-five years is pretty much my entire adult life!" he jokes. When asked what he will miss most about Pingry, Mr. Corvino answers, "The relationships that I've made with the kids, parents, and teachers have been wonderful. I'll just never forget them. Alumni come back all the time to visit, and I love when former students come back as parents of current students. I'll also miss watching the kids work with the teachers, watching them have those little ah-ha! moments. Every teacher looks for that, and I've always found that to be so special." In his well-known, self-effacing manner, he adds, "I've been blessed to ride on the backs of some amazing teachers who have been masters of their craft. The teachers and the children are the true heart and soul of this school."
Contact: Andrea Dawson, Senior Writer