By: Leah Cerami
Charles Rizzuto, a physical education and health teacher at Oyster Bay High School, is a teacher that many students turn to when they need guidance. He is open about struggles he had growing up, leaving students feeling not so alone in what they go through.
Apart from teaching, Rizzuto coaches lacrosse at the high school. He has expressed that lacrosse played a big role in his unpredictable childhood, and was often something he turned to in times of struggle. He also has been open with his students and told them about his teenage years and mental health.
How would you describe what your life looked like when you were younger, or in your teenage years? What did a day in your life look like?
A typical day in my teenage years was honestly unpredictable. It was filled with trying to find an escape to whatever it was that was giving me anxiety, typically lacrosse. When I was in middle school, I would get off the bus, run home, throw my bag, grab my lacrosse stick, and run about a mile to the high school, where I would stop and play wall ball and shoot. Then, I would run another mile, to the varsity lacrosse team, sit in the bleachers and watch them. I’d get home, mom would be making dinner dad probably wouldn’t be home yet… During those years I would wait up until one or two in the morning, until I heard the garage door open, to know that my dad was home from work because he was a police officer and a detective in New York City.
What event, if any, do you believe has brought you to be who you are to this day?
My sophomore year in college, I was taking a political science class, and I had a really big paper due and I had procrastinated it, and it is the night before the paper was due, and I’m finding stuff online and throwing it on the paper. So, I hand in the paper, and the following week, I go to class and everyone gets their papers back except me. At the end of class, I go up to my professor and I say I’d like to know if I can get my paper back, and he hands it to me, and there is an F on top. He asked me if I knew what the F stands for, and I said “fail,” and he said, “No it means…” and used some colorful language. He said, “Do you know what I wait for every single time we have class? I wait for you and another girl’s hand to go up because I know you are going to say something really good, and this isn’t really good; it’s really really bad.” So, he gave me a new assignment, and I went and I did it, and the next class I hand it in, and the class after that I get it back. There is an A on it, and I said thank you, and I went to leave, and he said, “Charlie, nothing less than that ever again.” I said, “I know, thank you,” and I went to leave his class and he said, “No, I don’t just mean in this class. I mean ever.” And I will never forget that, he was one of the first people that made me realize I was smart.
You have become someone that many students at OBHS feel comfortable coming to in times of need. How do you think you came to play this role?
I think I came to play that role because the students at Oyster Bay understand that I understand where they are coming from. I think they understand that I don’t just remember what it was like being a kid but remembering what being a kid felt like; I remember feeling those emotions. I feel like I have taken on this role because kids know that I will always make the time for them and because I allow myself to be vulnerable in an appropriate, professional way. They know a ton about me and look at me as not just a teacher but a human being that is like them
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