Mrs. Prendergast says Goodbye to VHS

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Mrs. Prendergast says Goodbye to VHS

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“Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

One can think of no better line to describe the relationship between Mrs. Rose Ann Prendergast and her students. Anyone who has had the privilege of being in the presence of  “Mrs. P” has undoubtedly been changed for the better, by both her caring nature, as well as her undying love for her students and life.

Growing up in Newark until sixth grade and then switching over to South End School and Memorial High School (now known as Cedar Grove High School), Mrs. Prendergast has always had a love for learning. Time and time again she can be heard explaining how she would love to be a “professional student,” as her love for learning and knowledge can only be paralleled by her love for family and friendship. Taking her love for knowledge to the next level, Mrs. Prendergast chose to study biological sciences at Rutgers University because “it was the most challenging course [she] took in high school.”

Once she received her degree from Rutgers, Mrs. Prendergast quickly engaged herself in the classroom and began her teaching career. During a combined 41 years, she taught a “gifted and talented” Life Science class at Eisenhower Middle School in Succasunna, New Jersey, Biological Sciences at Cedar Grove High School, and both freshman Biology and AP Biology at VHS. In fact, many faculty members at VHS have been taught by Mrs. Prendergast, such as Mrs. Emiliani (Mrs. P student taught the then-15 year old Mrs. E when she was a student teacher), Mr. Burgess, Mr. Cascone, Mr. Carollo, and Ms. Calabrese.

A charismatic and personable individual, Mrs. Prendergast has always been one to laugh and appreciate life, both in the classroom, as well as in her personal life. However, when asked about her favorite memory of Verona High School, the normally vocal and outgoing teacher goes completely speechless. “There are so many,” Mrs. P remarks, “but I think my favorite memory will always be the unbelievable love, support and encouragement I received when my husband became ill.” She notes that the whole school rallied around her, and that those who supported her, “have no idea how that impacted me. It really brought me through a really hard time.” On a lighter note, Mrs. Prendergast also frequently looks back and jokingly laughs at the time she “almost set the room on fire and had to call the health department,” and when she opened a closet and the shelving collapsed, leaving “just a little chloroform foaming at my feet.”

Mrs. Prendergast also laughs about the time she “almost convinced Tom Cruise not to go into acting.” Assisting a Glen Ridge High School theatre production many years ago, during which a young Tom Cruise was a participant, Mrs. P jokes about how she tried to tell Tom that acting was a risky career move, and that, instead, he should attend college so that he has a “real career to fall back on when acting didn’t work out.” Now, she crosses her fingers that he will never win an Oscar, kidding that she doesn’t want to be mentioned in his acceptance speech “as the woman who tried to convince him not to act.”

However, on a more serious note, Mrs. Prendergast is clear on what she will miss the most about Verona High School. With no hesitation, Mrs. Prendergast will tell you that what she will miss the most will be her students, as well as the staff. She explained that over the years, her students have “brought such a joy” to her life, and that the staff has become like a second family to her, and for that she will be forever grateful.

Although Mrs. Prendergast will no longer maintain her teaching position at VHS, she has no plans of settling into the “traditional” retirement role. Her number one dream has always been to travel to the Galapagos Islands, and plans to see this dream come to fruition next year with her “soul mate,” Jerry. She also plans on committing to more of her hobbies, such as gardening, knitting, taking up both piano and art lessons, and volunteering at a local animal shelter. She also vows to exercise on a more frequent basis, and “fight Mother Nature.” Lastly, Mrs. Prendergast plans on returning to the classroom, as a substitute teacher on the high school level, and a teacher at the college level. However, biology will no longer be her focus, as she would be interested in teaching a course on teaching, itself. “I just want to keep busy,” she insists. ”Keep busy, busy, busy.”

There are so many words to describe Mrs. Prendergast, but the best one would have to be friend. Reaching so much further than required, Mrs. P has always gone out of her way to be both an inspiration and friend to her students, and for that, she will never be forgotten in the halls of Verona High School.

Mrs. Prendergast remarks that VHS “has been a very safe place for me. It has become a part of me,” and in turn, she has become a part of all of us.

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