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FTHS Students, Staff Share Memories of Mr. Auletta

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Since learning of his sudden passing, the teachers and students have been remembering Mr. Auletta’s personality, passion, and wit with The Patriot Press. Below is a small sampling of the many stories we’ve heard about him.  If you’d like to share a memory, use the comments section below to remember Mr. Auletta in your own way.


FTHS graduate Brianna Hellrigel drew this picture of Mr. Auletta and Doc P, which has been hanging in the Science Department for years.

From Doc P: Here I recollect about my younger brother Tom. My first encounter with Tom was in September ’98. We were both new to our assignments to teach AP Courses at FTHS. He was teaching Biology and me Physics in rooms across from each other. I was terrified needless to say. So I found a workshop where we could be given training  for AP in New York City. I could never have attended this valuable workshop if Tom had not been so generous with driving us both to Newark and help navigate the maddening crowds of the subway to and from New York City. I was always amazed at how he taught so much material in such a short time span to a varied student body and managed to produce fabulous AP scores. He was a more than generous collaborator in providing me students to compete in so many science league competitions and administering them in his classroom without ever complaining about the loss of class time. He was a dynamite classroom teacher always keeping his students engaged with hands-on learning activities. Tom always cared about the equality of wages as well as health care for the disadvantaged people among us. O how I will miss his wit and humor. I was truly blessed to share my journey of teaching and learning with Tom here at Freehold Township.


From Mr. Patterson: Tom and I were both part of the early morning crew at FTHS. If I needed to make copies, as I would walk down the hall, I would always wonder if Tom had beat me to the copier. If he had, I knew I might have to wait a while. But if I beat him, I knew I would be the one to turn the copy machine on. We would talk casually about this year’s group of AP students and the demands of teaching such challenging classes. Sometimes he’d be a little grumpy in the morning but his dry wit would always leave me smiling.  During the day, we wouldn’t cross paths much, but there were many days when I would be walking out and would notice a group of more than a handful of students staying after to be guided under tom’s tutelage. Tom cared about his students, he cared about his subject, and he cared about Fths. He will be missed by all, students and teachers alike.


From Mrs. Titus: Chuck [my husband] and I just went to a concert in February and I was telling Tom ‘you have to check out this band,’ so Tom and his wife went to the same show. We would argue about musicians and drum solos and share you tube videos of our favorite guitar solos. Did you know he was a musician/drummer and he knew so much about music – I always walked away from him while he was on bathroom duty and said .. “ok, to be continued.”  I still cannot believe he is gone and our conversation is over. We would talk music and old times and believe it or not about relationships. He was a gem of a guy and I shake my head and wonder how and why this could be…but it is. So we pull together, hold each other up and heal.


Mr. Auletta’s 2006 yearbook photo, complete with his passion for music

From Mrs. Woolley:  I have many memories of Tom that make me laugh.  Tom has been my neighbor (classroom) and friend for 14 years.   Tom never read his emails! He would come running into mine and John’s room in a panic about paperwork or something being due and having no idea about it!  It never failed every time that it was in his unread emails! I always laughed and told him that I already had 1 work husband to keep track of but I guess it wasn’t so bad to have 2.   I know many people did not know Tom very well. I was fortunate enough to have known him a little better. He was one of the funniest people I interacted with on a daily basis. He loved to sail and he loved his dog.  Tom was dedicated to his job and his students. He would strive to make sure his students were as prepared as possible for both the AP exam and college since many of them had plans to go into the medical field. He spent most of his free time preparing lessons and labs to challenge students.  He spent countless hours grading labs and reading every last thought. He was a true teacher and has left a lasting impression on us all. It was a true honor to call him my friend.


From Mrs. Higley: Mr. Auletta was one of the kindest individuals I have ever met.  He never spoke a harsh word about anyone and cared deeply about his students.   He had a quirky sense of humor and always put a smile on my face.  This is a great lose to the Patriot family and personally I will miss him.


From Mrs. Kropa: Tom and I started at FTHS at the same time. He was a funny, focused, genuine person. He was my friend. The first year we had a department Secret Santa for Christmas, Tom got me a handmade ornament made out of an egg. It is one of my most cherished possessions. Tom was fiercely loyal and had no time for what he considered nonsense. When I saw Mrs. Higley called for a [faculty] meeting Monday morning I laughed to myself thinking Tom would have just ignored the email and someone would have to go get him. He was very proud of the recent activism in our school and loved to talk about politics and the injustice in the world. He was so knowledgeable and inspired me to get more involved. When I would tell him about marches or rallies I attended he would be so proud of me. I will really miss him and will dedicate myself to helping to support causes important to him because he is important to me.


From Mr. Glick: Tom was a huge car enthusiast and when he found out that I was one as well, we would always spend about 5 to 10 minutes talking about cars and the modifications he made to his cars every day during my grand central duty and his hall duty. We would share ideas about how to make cars faster and the work that needed to be completed on our own cars. We would also talk in the prep room since we both had the same prep this year about his Focus RS. I will truly miss those conversations.


From Mr. Mehl: Tom Auletta was a good and decent man. I admired his dedication and commitment to his students. I will always remember him as a valuable colleague and asset to the school community. Often times, myself and a small group of other “early risers” would always be second in the photo copy line behind Tom. One of the first to arrive and one of the last to leave, always.

Mr. Auletta with members of the Science Department during the 2017 Celebration of Education

From Mr. Olinger: It’s not a part of my personality that I’m exactly proud of but I don’t really invest in friendships but Tom always met me more than halfway.  Tom was my friend. His quirky nature lined up just right with my quirky nature…you might say we landed at similar places on the spectrum. He was the person I looked for to sit with at faculty and department meetings.  He was the person I felt most comfortable with, whether talking about work related issues or general chit chat. An absolute great person to have a beer with at a party. He liked to share in the things he enjoyed. He took my kids and I sailing on his boat.  One time when he was going through a hobby phase with r/c helicopters, he bought one for me to play with, with my kids. We both spent far too much time grading and crafting new materials for our shared subject matter and often exchanged things we developed for our classes.  We had a policy between us that if there was a department or faculty meeting, we would come and get the other to remind them that there was a meeting. We saved each other more than once and I now have a fear that I will be a no show to future meetings. There are big changes in store next year in biology, not just block schedule changes, but major changes in the curriculum.  I felt better about the idea that I would muddle through the changes along with him, that together we would sort it out. I miss my friend and I miss my colleague, and I’m truly glad to have known him.


From Mrs. Conrad: Tom and I started at fths at the same time. This was our 20th year. We became fast friends, both teaching biology and eventually honors biology. We shared lessons with each other and basically learned from each other. That never ended- we still continued last week. We would walk into each other’s classroom every few days to find out what the other was doing. He was always there for me and I for him.   Our friendship went beyond the classroom, however. My husband and I attended his wedding so many years ago, and were so happy for him and Ro. He would always keep me up to date on things happening in his life and I would keep him up to date on mine. I am going to miss those times especially. I have lost not just a colleague, but a family member.

From Mrs. Kurczeski:  He said hello to me on a daily basis, always lifting his head to look at you (a rare thing these days) and the kids live for the day when he crawls around on the desks like an amoeba.


From Ms. Dunkley: Tom and I had one thing in common.  We both hate the cold. Now I’m left alone with no one to whom I can complain.  My heart is broken. I will miss him dearly. Rest well, my friend!


From Ms. Kappock:  Tom was a quiet guy, but always said hello.  His students really liked him and when I walked past his room on my way to lunch, they always looked interested and engaged in his lesson.  He will be missed by students and staff.


Mr. Auletta (with other FTHS teachers) during a rally in Trenton

From Ms. Quinn: Tom Auletta was one heck of a guy. I am so moved as I hear about all of the special friendships he had with our faculty all over the building. I got to know Tom better over the past few years and I found him profoundly interesting. My first conversation with Tom was about something we had in common, loving our rescue dogs. Not only did Tom have extensive knowledge of science and passion for the environment, he had deep interest in politics, music, labor unions and social and economic justice. Tom was a dedicated union member who attended rallies, wrote legislators and even ran for NJ Assembly as a Green party candidate. He was well known to have a good sense of humor… and to zip out of the parking lot at the end of the day in his beamer.  I hope he knew how much I appreciated him. Even though Tom has passed, his dedication to teaching our FTHS students over the years will allow his legacy to live on. One of my favorite quotes from the book Tuesdays with Morrie (about a dying professor) is that when you die, “you live on… in the hearts of everyone you have touched and nurtured while you were here”. It brings me some peace to know that there are so many of us walking around here with a piece of Tom in our hearts.


From Mrs. D’Ambrosio:  Mr. Auletta embodied the most important lessons he taught.  He lived life with passion, with purpose, and with a little nutty humor.  We can only hope to do the same.


From Mrs. Jessop: “You have to be happy”! Tom would always say this to me while I was pregnant with my second son. He shared that the emotions and hormones released when I was happy would have a positive effect on my baby. If I wanted a happy baby, I myself, had to focus on happiness while pregnant. I took what he said to heart and when I would get upset about something, I would picture a baby with a grumpy face (haha) and would work on shifting my energy. Now, my son is this beautiful, happy baby and I cannot help but to think of Tom sometimes when I see that smile. In my head, he had something to do with my baby being the happy little guy he is, with his simple piece of advice: be happy.


Molly Montague, Junior: Mr. Auletta was sure to challenge us in ways that prepared us for our future classes. He was willing to help with any confusing topics and kept the class engaged throughout the year. Along with all of this, he made his students laugh and showed his passion for teaching each day.


Mr. Auletta protesting during one of Gov. Christie’s education budget cuts

Deryn Younger, Junior: I’ll be honest: science is not my cup of tea, and I was certainly not excited to be taking Honors Biology freshman year. On top of that, I had a teacher who was rather peculiar, quirky, had an odd sense of humor, yet contained a burning passion for the subject he taught. That teacher was Mr. Auletta, and though I admittedly struggled in his class, there is no doubt in my mind that Mr. Auletta was determined to make the subject as fun and interesting as he could to teach to those who had not yet explored the depths of biology. His love of biology was present every day; no matter how his day went, he came to class ready to teach the young minds of his students – including mine – all while making jokes and providing a factual biology lesson. Many students knew he was an eccentric man, though on the non-teacher side of him, Mr. Auletta was a genuine, kind person who cared deeply about the success and wellbeing of his students. Although I may not have been as appreciative of the life lessons Mr. Auletta gave to my class two years ago as a young and naive freshman, I have come to realize now with his passing that there was so much more to Mr. Auletta than him simply being a high school biology teacher. He inspired students both long-since graduated as well as students who are still in FTHS today, and I know that I speak on behalf of all of Mr. Auletta’s former and present students when I say this: I would not trade my experience in his class, and with him, for anything. This is truly

Mr. Auletta with his shovel.

one of those times where you don’t know what you had until it’s gone. Rest in peace, Mr. Auletta.


Lindsay Smith, Senior: Mr Auletta was one of those teachers who stressed you out, but prepared you for college the most. He was a good man who did everything from heart, whether it was teaching, advising students about college or just giving life advice. He truly believed his students are the ones to change the world. He was an amazing man whose impact on FTHS will forever be remembered.


Claudia Bellafiore, Senior: Mr. Auletta was incredibly intelligent and believed in his students even when they didn’t. He truly cared about his students’ futures and wanted to prepare us in every way possible for college, even if that meant four chapter tests. Mr. Auletta never failed to make my class laugh at his jokes or very elaborate demonstrations, and he will greatly be missed.


Riley Finnigan, Senior: One thing he said that really stood out to me was during class when he got a phone call from a telemarketer. He didn’t answer it, and everyone was asking why. He looked at us and said that his goal of being a teacher is to help all of us be the most successful people we can be so that we can all get good jobs and not be the people calling randomly in the middle of the day trying to sell things.


From Mrs. LoPiccolo: When I was pregnant with both my children Tom would see me walking through the halls to get to class. He would always walk we me to almost protect me from the kids. Years later, he would say to me that he still felt the need to walk near me and protect me like when I was expecting and we would laugh at it.


Mr. Auletta’s first FTHS yearbook photo in 1999

Kimberly Herbert, Senior: He gave me the confidence I never realized I had in myself, he taught me many life lessons I’ll treasure forever. Some infamous quotes from him are as follows “‘SEXSEXSEX’, ‘One time my uncle got ducks drunk and put them in a garbage bag to bring home’, ‘Kinky people often find good spaghetti’, ‘Why are you looking down at your crotch.’” I’ll never forget him commenting on the pangea forming with very dramatic music in the background. The very last thing I spoke to Mr. Auletta about my absence on Wednesday and Thursday because I was going to Quinnipiac. He replied saying, “Kimberly I know you are going to end up there. I am so proud of you, and you are going to do great things. I  will see you Friday,” which is when I ended up committing. Another memory is one time before lunch I walked into his class with Claudia and he was eating egg salad sandwich staring out the window, and we needed help with our with our open ended question and he began talking about how Claudia and I will dress our kids identical and will live in big houses and be so successful, then mentioned about old tends of animal prints. I will miss him so much, but I know he’s in heaven getting ducks drunk, riding his boat, and digging a pile of dirt for us to identify under a microscope.


Francesca Marchiano, Senior: I had Mr. Auletta not only this year, but freshman year too. Although biology was a rigorous course, Mr. Auletta strengthened and pushed me to work harder. He also made the class fun and full of laughter. He inspired all of his students and believed in us to make the future a better place. He will be loved and missed. Thank you Mr. Auletta for everything and rest in peace.


Jordan Antonides, Junior: Honestly when I first went into Mr. Auletta’s class I didn’t know what to expect. It was a new school with a bunch of new faces. But once I got into his classroom I loved it. He made sure to always keep the class engaged and excited to learn with his humorous personality and his love of biology. He was a poet and he didn’t even know it and I looked forward to his class everyday.


Nicole Orlowsky, Junior: Mr. Auletta taught one of the most challenging courses I’ve taken so far. However, that did not stop his students from looking forward to having him everyday. Mr. Auletta was simply one of the best teachers to have as a freshman, his class preparing each one of his students for the reality of high school. His nonstop jokes made everyone love him and encouraged many students to take A.P. Bio just to have him as their teacher again. I planned on taking his class next year, and it breaks my heart, along with many of my classmates’ that this won’t be the case.


Mr. Auletta celebrating with his AP Bio students after their test

Allison Wrubel, Junior: Mr. Auletta’s sense of humor and personality never ceased to brighten my day and make me enjoy class.  It was evident that he really cared about his students and was passionate about biology. Through his rigorous class, he made me have an appreciation for science.  Mr. Auletta helped me as a freshman become the student I am today. He was always encouraging and supportive. I would run into him in the hallways and he would always joke around and insist that I take AP biology senior year.  His memory will live on in the impact he’s had on me as a student and as a person overall.


Fallon Link, Junior: As one of my favorite teachers from FTHS, Mr. Auletta left a lasting impact on me. Not only did his class successfully prepare me for what was to come over the course of high school, but was a place where I entirely anticipated going daily. With his quirky and comedic personality, he always had the class engaged and attentive, which is surely something I am going to miss.


Victoria Varlack: Mr. Auletta was an an excellent educator and a fantastic person. He brought so much spirit to every lesson, he was really funny, and I know that his memory will live on with all of his students. I will always be grateful for what he taught me.


Mr. Auletta and Mah-Noor Chaudhary during the 2016 Senior Takeover Day

Jordan Broadbent, Senior: I never loved science or biology specifically but Mr. Auletta has definitely made AP biology my favorite class I have taken. Whenever I walked into class, he was always making jokes or saying things to make us laugh, and I’ll especially miss how much he genuinely cared about us and wanted us to succeed in his class and in the future.


Ethan Leonardi, Junior: 

Mr. Auletta never failed to bring a smile to my face on the days that I needed it most. Taking Honors Biology with him as a teacher reinforced habits that are vital to my success in school today. Without him, I would not be near the student I am today. Besides being a great teacher, he was a great man who taught me more about the important things in life beyond things like the inner-workings of DNA.


Winnie Cheng, Senior: He is probably one of the most dedicated & passionate teachers that I’ve had at FTHS. He goes above and beyond to stress important lessons not only in the classroom, but life lessons too. He always makes an effort to slip in jokes whenever he can and tries his best to make his students laugh. He is an all around wonderful person, super intelligent, & kind. This man is also an inspiration to all his students + believes in all his students!

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3 Responses to “FTHS Students, Staff Share Memories of Mr. Auletta”

  1. Marylouise McGrath-Costsnyini on March 13th, 2018 6:36 pm

    Tom and I engaged in long conversations about politics and sometimes about his mother, Italy and the ocean. He was such a compassionate man as well as a politically committed one. He’ll be missed.


  2. Linda A Curtis (friend of Tom Auletta's wife) on March 13th, 2018 10:51 pm

    Hi all, I am writing to you all for Ro Cedola – Tom’s wife. We will be having a remembrance gathering for Tom at the Unitarian Universalist Church located at 1475 West Front St. Lincroft NJ 07738 on Friday, March 16th from 7pm-10pm and on Saturday, March 17th from 4pm-8pm for a time to be with the many people who loved him. On Saturday, March 17th we will have a pot luck dinner at 6pm. Anyone who would like to help please bring a potluck dish to share. During dinner there will be an opportunity to share a memory, story or song.
    Thank you everyone for your love and support.


  3. Dan on March 16th, 2018 4:27 pm

    I sub at FTHS occasionally. I only spoke to Tom a few times but when I did he was always friendly and even went out of his way to give me tips on job applications. I admire his passion for the environment and his goal of campaign finance reform. My thoughts are with all his colleagues and students.


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