By Cary Shuman
Peter DiGiulio said he was fortunate to “teach and coach in the city that I grew up in” for more than 40 years.
The Revere schoolchildren to whom DiGiulio brought his weekly message would say the same thing: we were lucky to have been a student Mr. D’s classroom. In fact, many of those schoolchildren who are now adults say that Mr. D’s words of sage advice, inspiration and optimism still resonate with them decades later.
DiGiulio, who described himself as a life skills teacher/coach, retired from his longtime position in the Revere school district on June 30.
“I was a person that talked to kids about health, nutrition, and keeping themselves safe,” said DiGiulio. “I talked about life. I talked about surviving.”
DiGiulio, 65, estimates that he taught or coached more than 100,000 children in his 43 years in the profession, visiting 20 different school buildings in his career.
“I taught every kid in the school system for 38 of my 43 years,” he said. “Basically I taught kindergarten through grade 5 [in 40-minute classes] and had a rotating schedule where I went to a different school every day.”
DiGiulio began teaching in 1974 one year after graduating from Boston College with a Bachelor’s degree in Elementary Education and a minor in Health. He was president of his class and played basketball for one year in the BC Eagles’ Division 1 program.
“When I got to Revere, Billy Hill was the superintendent and he put me at the Community Health Education Center (CHEC). It was at the Bianco Building at the end of Hutchinson Street. My mother (Gloria DiGiulio) was the secretary there. That was my office. Mayor George Colella was making a pitch for health education and I was lucky enough to be able to get started and begin rotating as a teacher from school to school.”
DiGiulio said Revere’s school superintendents allowed him flexibility in his instruction and he’s grateful to them for their confidence and trust in his abilities. He often changed the focus of his lessons to match the changing times. If something big happened on the news the night before, DiGiulio would bring that topic in to the classroom for discussion the next day.
“Sometimes that irked parents and administrators because I pushed the envelope a lot,” he said. “I brought drugs in to the classroom so that kids could see what they had to avoid. But I never put the kids in danger or compromised their safety.”
Does he believe that Revere students absorbed his lectures each year and benefited from his instruction?
“The proof seems to be in the pudding. People come up to me all the time, some of them in their 40s and 50s, and they say to me that they didn’t smoke cigarettes or they stayed away from drugs because of what I said. I know I wasn’t 100 percent successful but the kids that listened and cared about themselves – they benefited from what I taught.”
DiGiulio also had a successful career as a coach for 35 years in the city. He coached Revere basketball in the late 1970s and early 1980s before becoming an assistant coach at Babson College for 16 years. He is the director of the Championship Basketball School at Mass Maritime Academy and the Hot Shot Basketball School at the Whelan School. He served as the RHS girls track coach for 26 years.
“I coached some great athletes in Revere,” said DiGiulio. “One who comes to mind is Racquel MacDonald. She went to Boston College and became one of the top hurdlers in school history.”
DiGiulio has two children, Ben, a senior at Syracuse University and former RHS athlete, and Emily, an RHS junior who plays varsity volleyball, basketball, and lacrosse. A fundamentally sound guard who makes her teammates better with her slick passing and dribbling, Emily was a key player for the powerful RHS hoop team that attained the No. 1 ranking for a few weeks last winter. She learned a lot of her textbook hoop techniques from her father.
“I actually didn’t like the Revere [girls basketball] team being ranked No. 1 in the state – it’s a lot of pressure,” said DiGiulio with his typical candor.
He is very proud of his children’s accomplishments. “They’re the pride of my life.”
DiGiulio feels the Revere school system is deserving of its reputation as one of the best in Massachusetts.
“I’m proud to say that I taught in Revere – the No. 1 urban district in the country.”
As much as he enjoyed his job, he knew it was time to call it a career. “The time came. Forty-three years is a long time in the field. I’m going to miss working with my colleagues and I’m going to miss the interaction with the kids. But I’ll still see the kids in my travels in the city.”
Revere sports fans will see a lot of Peter DiGiulio this fall. He intends to return to the microphone for Revere TV as a broadcaster alongside Mike Hinojosa for RHS football games.