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We’ll Miss Miss Varallo

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Varallo350On Tuesday, June 11, 2013, the Verona Board of Education accepted the retirement of Marilyn Varallo. It was just a small item on the agenda, buried in resolution 4. Almost as small as the first graders that Varallo has been teaching since anyone in Verona can remember.

As the news got out, MyVeronaNJ.com’s Facebook page and the “Old Verona” Facebook group filled with memories, as vivid as if the writers had walked out of her Laning Avenue classroom a minute earlier. They wrote of a teacher who had nurtured them and inspired them to learn, and in many cases to become educators themselves.Varallo-Comments-Miele

Any childhood anxiety over a new teacher melted quickly in Miss Varallo’s classroom. She embraced the children in her charge and they embraced her back, year after year.Varallo-Comments-Piercy

Don’t get the wrong idea: There has been plenty of love for Laning’s other teachers too. But Miss Varallo became a member of the extended family of many families in the northeast corner of Verona, teaching often all the siblings as they came through over the years, and then, more recently, the children of her first students. Varallo-Comments-Askling

And as the years went on (don’t ask how many, it’s not polite) a new worry developed for those first students: What if Miss Varallo left Laning before their children got to enter her classroom? Beth Shorten was in Miss Varallo’s 1973 first grade class and she wrote about that dilemma on her blog:

Two years ago I heard the rumor that Ms Varallo was going to retire. I was devastated. My son was in kindergarten at the time and I wanted him to have Ms Varallo. I knew that her nurturing style was exactly what he needed. So when I saw her in the school hallway one morning, I stopped her and said that I realized that she probably didn’t remember me, but she said my face was familiar and when I told her my name, she lit up and gave me a hug. I told her how much I wanted her to have my son who would be entering first grade that next year and I’ll never forget how she said, “I would love to have your son.” Just the way she said it warmed my heart because it wasn’t just words, it was honest and heartfelt.

She did have my son last year. And just like all those years before with me, she nurtured him and instilled in him a sense of pride and love of reading. I know that she has a laid a solid foundation for my son to continue to grow on.

Verona is known for its long-serving educators: Joel Throne retired last June after 40 years at VHS, Kevin Jennings leaves this year after 34 years at Forest Avenue and Frank Albano, Laning’s principal, departs now after a 34-year career, all but four years of which were spent in Verona. But Miss Varallo’s record may go unmatched in Verona history.

“I’m so very grateful for having the opportunity to help our children,” Miss Varallo says simply. “It’s been my life’s work and I have loved every minute.” She loves to travel, and expects to be doing lots of exploring in retirement. “I can not, however, imagine my life without children in it. I expect I will be searching for places to be with them, in whatever capacity that may be.”

Varallo-Comments-Hawkins

1V in 1973
1V in 1973

Photo of Marilyn Varallo courtesy Cindy Kramer. Photo of 1V courtesy Lana Fuller Nguyen.

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Virginia Citrano
Virginia Citranohttps://myveronanj.com
Virginia Citrano grew up in Verona. She moved away to write and edit for The Wall Street Journal’s European edition, Institutional Investor, Crain’s New York Business and Forbes.com. Since returning to Verona, she has volunteered for school, civic and religious groups, served nine years on the Verona Environmental Commission and is now part of Sustainable Verona. She co-founded MyVeronaNJ in 2009. You can reach Virginia at [email protected].

7 COMMENTS

  1. I recently saw Miss Varallo and I was shocked because she looked the same as when I had her as my teacher in 1970. The good memories brought tears to my eyes and hers too.

    Have A Happy Retirement, and God Bless
    Signed,
    Patricia Miller

  2. I had the privilege of having Miss Varallo for two years in a row. Reason being, I was held back and had to repeat 1st grade, when my parents told me I was repeating 1st grade I was very upset. I refused to do it unless I had Miss Varallo again because I couldn’t imagine 1st grade without her. My parents fought for it and I was back in her room the next year. She was a truly amazing teacher, one that I will never forget.

  3. I will always remember when I had Miss Varallo 40 years ago. We made popcorn garland for a thanksgiving feast something I thought was really cool at the time. We also learned cursive in the first grade! She made up the best games to play and little did we know we were learning too. I rememember as a little girl thinking how pretty she was too and wanted to be just like her. How blessed I was to have had such a great teacher. When I had my twin girls I prayed that she would continue teaching so one of them could have the same great experience as I. Thankfully she did and my daughter Alena felt the same way as I did about her. It is the little things in life such as this that really can make an impact on ones life. For this I Thank-you Miss Varallo! I Hope you enjoy Travels and retirement but words cannot measure how much you will be missed at laning!!

  4. I cannot express in words the outpouring of love I have felt in these past few days. It is truly overwhelming!
    A flood of memories wash over me every time a read a comment from a former student. Thank you all so
    very much. I truly love you.
    Marilyn Varallo

  5. Wow, unbelievable. The end of an era. I will never forget when Ricky Ober saw the Possum outside the classroom window (mild pandomonium) or the time we all hid from Mrs. Varallo in the coat closet trying hard not to giggle. And that was about 47 years ago!! And how every time she met my mother who was a FN Brown teacher for at about 25 years she always asked about me and my family. To say she was dedicated and loved her students is the understatement of the century. May the Almighty reward you for all your efforts with a very happy and healthy retirement until 120!
    With very fond memories and much gratitude to starting me off on the right foot.
    Very Sincerely,
    Rick Friedman

  6. I can’t believe your leaving,the whole Feret family wishes you the best in the future.I hope I get to see you before you leave.PS my children will never forget you for inventive spelling Hint TJ,all our best Love,Terry Jenn and TJ Feret

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