April 22, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES I • Page 7
Cogger, Thomas ﬁrst Hall of Fame inductees
Former Midland Park High School teachers Jerry Thomas and Jack Cogger, both now deceased, were the first inductees into the new Midland Park School District’s Education Hall of Fame. A short ceremony was held at the board of education meeting last week. Their photographs will be displayed in an Education Hallway of Fame and a permanent plaque bearing their names and future award winners’ will be displayed at Midland Park High School. Thomas, who was a physical education and driver’s education teacher, guidance counselor and coach at the high school, was nominated by former student Jeff Jasper. “He approached teaching and coaching with enthusiasm, energy and love. I loved his sarcasm, so appreciated his humor and was always so touched by his caring and compassion,” Jasper said in his nominating letter. “He taught with an inner fire, a stern look, and a slight smile. He loved fundamentals, instructed with repetition; he was patient, fair but stern and disciplined. He loved team; lectured about it, and made us feel that we were only as valuable as the guy next to us. It was a lesson I will always remember,” Jasper said in a letter he wrote to the Thomas grandchildren upon Thomas’ death last year. Thomas was part of the original staff when Midland Park High School opened in 1957. An accomplished baseball coach, he was named All Suburban Baseball Coach of the Year in 1962 and ‘63. Thomas left Midland Park High School in 1964 to become guidance counselor and then vice principal of Pascack Hills High School, from which he retired in 1997. Cogger, a physics and chemistry teacher and track coach at Midland Park High School from 1982 until his death in 1995, was nominated by high school teachers Teresa Mallon, Don Elliott and Jack Ferriday, who indicated several other teachers supported the nomination as well. “Jack cared for every one of his students, those who were easy to love and those who weren’t…He worked to connect with each teen, and all Jack Cogger’s students knew that they were important to him,” Mallon said in her nominating letter, saying that he often gave financial aid to students in need, “telling those students not to worry about paying him back, but to help someone in the future when able.” Noting that Cogger had suffered from bone cancer for more than 10 years and in that time endured numerous operations, Mallon said that Cogger “never let his disease rule his life,” instead serving as advisor to chemistry and physics league teams in addition to coaching track, and attending every school play and concert. He prided himself on the number of his athletes who ran track in college, Mallon said. “He was the most influential teacher role model I have yet experienced in my 28 years of teaching,” Ferriday said in his nominating letter. “I consider him to be the greatest teacher I have ever worked with,” wrote Elliott, reminiscing that in his dying days, Cogger carried a soft beach chair and a large cushion with him so that he could sit and teach and avoid the pain of sitting on a hard chair. “All he wanted to do was teach,” he said. As a testament to Cogger’s legacy, every year the Midland Park Education Association honors his memory by presenting the Jack Cogger Award to a teacher who embodies this outstanding man’s love of students and learning, “one who epitomizes Jack’s professionalism, enthusiasm, integrity and earnestness as an educator,” according to Ferriday. A plaque in the lobby of each school lists past recipients. The award will be made annually to no more than three former school employees who “have made significant contributions to the improvement of the Midland Park school system in their own special ways over at least a five-year period of employment. The selection from among eligible applicants is made by a committee of two board of education members and two administrators, past or present. “All good school systems are a product of long-term community support and a caring educational staff. I am pleased that the board of education approved a program to recognize those who helped build the Midland Park School District into the quality school system that it is through their contributions over time,” commented Superintendent of Schools Dr. William Heebink, who was the driving force behind the establishment of the Hall of Fame.
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