It’s a Tuesday in late May, when a high school freshman’s thoughts naturally turn to summer and maybe that life-guarding job at the pool. But it’s pouring in Scarsdale at the moment, so there is no sunshine to lure a math student’s thoughts away from the topic at hand: locus theorems. (If it’s been awhile since you were in high school, locus theorems are what generate circles, lines, parabolas, etc.) Besides, this is Roger Cappucci’s fifth-period geometry class, and he has shown an ability to keep his students on point.
Katy in the front row is a tennis player, so he draws a tennis court on the SMART Board to illustrate that the best route between two points is a shot “right up the middle.” There’s the way he looks every kid in the eye, makes every kid feel part of the experience. His lessons are lively and interactive, peppered with esteem-boosting affirmations: “All I need is effort. There’s no right or wrong. There’s so much talent in this room.” He turns to a student with a question. “You ready David? This is your moment. Use that beautiful mind you have.”
Cappucci, who has been teaching math for more than 50 years (most of them at Scarsdale High School), says “beautiful” a lot. The word rolls off his tongue in four Bronxian parts: bee-yoo-tee-full. Math is a beautiful discipline. Scarsdale High is a beautiful place. He has a beautiful wife, Lucille, whom he met at a dance at St. Philip Neri Church on Grand Concourse when he was 19 years old. She is his best friend, the mother of his three sons. If something’s not beautiful, it’s fantastic. Or terrific. Good luck getting him to voice a negative thought. He didn’t last more than a half-century as a teacher by being a downer. He’s 76 and still loves teaching. As one of his fellow math teachers, Bruce Henry, puts it: “He’s got a little less hair, but his teaching’s still the same: spectacular.”
“It’s the kids,” Cappucci says modestly. “They keep me young. People say, you’re teaching the same subject every day. Yeah, I am, but the students are different. That’s the whole idea. I’m not up there lecturing. We are exploring this discipline together.” He adds, “Math is an art form I use to develop their minds emotionally, spiritually, intellectually. Just as in life, on every level, the essential question is, ‘Why?’ As we go further, we encounter obstacles that need to be mastered through perseverance and hard work. Believing in their ability to focus and apply a strong effort to stay with a problem is vital to their success in life’s journey.
Read more about the legendary math teacher: http://www.westchestermagazine.com/Westchester-Magazine/September-2012/A-Profile-of-Scarsdale-Math-Teacher-Roger-Cappucci/