In Memoriam: Thomas Cestaro

Friday, May 3, 2024
by Levittown United Teachers Elementary Vice President, Donna DiPalo

Thomas Cestaro, my dad, was a teacher in Levittown for 37 years. For most of those years he taughtEnglish at Division Avenue High School. My dad coached basketball in his early teaching career. He was also known for running the National Honor Society and teaching a unique class called “Integrated Studies” with his colleague, Fred Goelz. The class covered English, social studies and the humanities. It was open only to seniors who earned three college credits for taking and passing the course. In the class, students would research and write about topics they were interested in and then share their research with their classmates. Fred and my dad taught this class for 13 years. I spoke recently with Fred. He recalled that my dad was a dynamic educator who knew how to relate to his students like no one else he had ever worked with. The Integrated Studies class was challenging. But, according to Fred, my dad encouraged his students to rise to the challenges and guided them to do their best work.

Over the last few months, I have heard from hundreds of my dad’s former students who have such great memories from being in his classes. They all shared amazing stories of how he impacted their lives, changed their perspectives on learning, and life, and helped them become productive, contributing members of society. So many of these students viewed my dad as their favorite teacher and remained in touch with him after they graduated. They would often invite him to their reunions or local gatherings to catch up. I remember seeing the yearbook he would bring home each June. Many times, the yearbook was dedicated to him. He truly loved teaching and his students felt it. My brother, sister and I all went to school for teaching. We saw what it was like to have a job that you could love doing. Why wouldn’t we want to do the same thing? My dad was tough, but he pushed us all to be the best we could be. He would often refer to his famous cousin, the legendary football coach, Vince Lombardi, to inspire his students or my siblings and me.  He would use Coach Lombardi’s famous saying, “The measure of who we are is what we do with what we have.”
My dad continued to contribute to the Levittown district in retirement. Although he did not start the Levittown Employees Memorial Mass, my dad was instrumental in keeping it going all these years after it began in 1970. Organizing the event each year was a huge undertaking for him, but one that he felt was so important. The mass helps all employees remember all the people that have worked hard to make the Levittown school district what it is today. Each December, at the mass, my dad would read the names of those employees who died throughout the year. In recent years, it was tough to see him honor some of his closest friends at the mass. He truly missed spending time with them, golfing with them, and reliving memories of their days in the classroom. 
My dad was a man who always kept his family as his number one. When I was growing up, he worked extra jobs just so my mom could be home to raise me and my siblings. He so enjoyed being a grandfather to his 7 grandchildren. He and my mom were at anything and everything that the grandkids did, from softball games to hockey games, gymnastics meets, award ceremonies, plays, and graduations, just to name a few. My dad also taught us so much about the importance of our family history. My dad and his brother grew up in a huge Italian family. His father was one of five and his mother was one of ten. We know every single member of both sides of the family and continue to keep in touch with our many, many cousins. Our reunions are priceless times spent hearing the stories of our family’s heritage. Every day, I feel my dad’s absence in so many ways. But I will always treasure the amazing memories I have of him, and I have no doubt that my family and I will keep alive the traditions he created. Thankfully, we have so much support around us because of the bonds my dad helped us build. 
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