Last week, a large crowd of family and friends gathered at the Marlboro Elementary School for a ceremony naming the school’s gymnasium in honor of retired physical education teacher Benjamin Trapani.
Superintendent Michael Rydell welcomed everyone, saying, “it is absolutely my pleasure to have the opportunity this evening to honor an individual who dedicated 32 years as an educator, as a coach and for really being a big part of so many lives.”
Trapani began teaching in the fall of 1969 and spent 32 of his 35 year career in education in the Marlboro School district, with a few years in Highland, Wallkill, New Paltz and Pine Bush. He retired in 2004.
Rydell paraphrased poet/activist Maya Angelou saying of Trapani, “that the students may not remember everything that you taught them but they’re definitely going to remember how you made them feel; and that embodies what he represents throughout his career [of] being and advocate for students and making every student feel special.”
Rydell read part of a letter he received from the Facilities Committee about the character and work ethic of Ben Trapani.
“He is known by many students for his ability to motivate them to do their best and to work hard. Ben always had a smile on his face and a kind word to share and worked tirelessly to adapt his physical education classes for all students, including those in Special Education.”
After the ceremony, Rydell recalled a humorous story about Trapani, saying he knows that his favorite fruit is raspberries because he was at Kirky’s Deli one day when Trapani arrived and handed out raspberries to everyone.
“He must have been really giving that day for him to part with his raspberries,” Rydell laughed. “They were probably the best raspberries that I’ve ever had, they were absolutely delicious.”
Ben’s son Gary came to the podium to acknowledge that his father is very deserving of having his name grace the entrance to the gym. Gary recalled that when he himself began teaching in the district 21 years ago, many parents who had his father, “would go on and on and on,” saying that his father was the best teacher they ever had. Gary said he later came to realize that the people telling him this were sincere in their praise of his father.
“His influence extended beyond the gym, between coaching modified sports, Marlboro youth baseball, all-stars, CYO and running Marlboro Youth Basketball,” Gary said. “He spent countless hours in the gymnasium and on the fields of this district, all for the children. I know I speak for many people when I say congratulations Dad, you deserve this.”
Ben addressed all who came to the ceremony, saying he taught in Marlboro, “because I loved it.” He gave special thanks to his wife Susan for their beautiful children. He said kids that he had in school many years ago, “still come up to me and say we love you, you were the best teacher we ever had...I thank everybody who is here, I appreciate it and I love Marlboro.”
A standing ovation greeted his closing remarks.