Is it possible to unite decades of high school students under the memory of a single person? While that may seem to be a bit of a stretch, current Eastern Christian High School students and decades of alumni can all remember one teacher who has played a part in their schooling career: Mr. Verrengia.
Mr. Verrengia’s EC legacy started when he arrived at ECHS as a freshman in 1969. While going to a new high school may have been a somewhat minor event in the moment, looking back, Mr. Verrengia sees it in a whole new light. “I think that the decision of my parents to send me to EC changed the whole path of my life,” he says.
When he went off to college, Mr. Verrengia didn’t intend to go back to EC. “I went to college to be an elementary/middle school science teacher,” he reflects. Mr. Verrengia followed his career vision, receiving a bachelor’s degree at Calvin University and a physics and chemistry certification through classes at Montclair State University and Ramapo College. Following his degree, he got his first job at a small Christian school in Piscataway, New Jersey as a middle school math and science teacher. While this job was a starting point, it was not where he was going to be forever.
“The pay was really bad,” he remembers. “A few years later, I actually got a phone call from EC’s principal at the time, and he invited me to apply for the chemistry position.” Mr. Verrengia accepted the offer and started his EC teaching career in the 1980-81 school year, working alongside many of the teachers who taught him in high school.
From his first day at EC to the present, Mr. Verrengia has made a lot of memories. “Some of the most memorable events revolve around Washington D.C. trips and junior-senior Banquets,” he says. “I remember one banquet in particular when the caterer did not supply the food we ordered, so we all got up and left before the banquet was over.”
Another part of his career that he remembers fondly is the students he has met along the way. “I have lots of memories of former students. Many of them are parents of current and recently graduated students,” he remembers. “Some of my former students are actually teaching at ECHS now. I suppose that one teacher would not mind me saying that her hair caught on fire during a chemistry lab.”
Reflecting on his career, Mr. Verrengia can owe a lot of his life to his time teaching and learning at EC. “ I met my wife at EC, so I owe my family to EC,” he remembers. “My best memories were when I had all four of my kids in my chemistry and physics classes. We still talk about funny things that happened in class. I created a bond with my kids that continues today as they are all adults with kids of their own.”
Mr. Verrengia has also been inspired by some of the teachers who have taught alongside him. “I think the person that stands out in my mind the most is former principal Jan Lucas, a former physics teacher and principal for 25 years,” he says. “He taught me that if I wanted students to learn from me, I had to make sure what I was teaching made sense to students and that treating students as respectful individuals would earn their respect.”
When asked about what he loves most about EC, Mr. Verrengia said it was the sense of community that is always present there. “It is an amazing experience to teach students of students, teach with former students, and know that we all have one thing in common: we are all brothers and sisters in Christ. I can truly feel the Spirit of God at work at EC.”