Jim Signorelli Retires After 40 Years of Service

Jim+Signorelli+Retires+After+40+Years+of+Service

Mitchell Ravitz

“Mr. Sig is honestly the most intellectual person I have ever met. And he always has something new and really interesting to talk about. I am truly going to miss him when he retires.”

These were the words of junior Desiree D’Moore who is really thankful to have had James Signorelli as her Chemistry teacher.

One of the longest serving faculty members of DMAE, James Signorelli has taught physical science, physics and chemistry and has played a contributing role as the head of the Science Department since 1969.

Unfortunately, this will be his last year here. The reason for his retirement is the new state law that Governor Chris

I absolutely adored my chemistry teacher. The man was just amazing, so I tended to follow in his footsteps. That’s how I became a Chemistry teacher.

Christie has signed. Under these new laws and Mr. Sig’s circumstances, he would lose a significant amount of money from his retirement plan each year making it logical to retire.

Although he is retiring as a high school teacher, he admits that he will be more  active as a college professor. He has actually been teaching colleges on the side for years now.

I will be teaching more full time at colleges like Kean, Columbia, Fairleigh Dickinson and Montclair. I have actually been teaching at the school of education at Montclair for six years. It’s kind of like preparing my successors.”

He had a passion for science since his early college days. He went to New Jersey City University (NJCU) assured that he was going to pursue science. But it wasn’t until Mr. Signorelli’s sophomore year that he realized chemistry was his true passion, thanks to his teacher.

“I remember my teacher from chemistry class sophomore year. I absolutely adored my chemistry teacher. The man was just amazing, so I tended to follow in his footsteps. That’s how I became a Chemistry teacher. I wanted to be Dr. Benedict O’Maley,” Signorelli revealed with a grin.

After attending NJCU, Mr. Signorelli was granted a fellowship to study at Fordham University. Instead of just going

People at the track like to say I cheat because I know the laws of physics and therefore I have an advantage over them. I tell them that community colleges teach physics and that they should take it.

to school, he decided to start his teaching career. That was when he juggled night classes at Fordham and a teaching position as a freshman physical science teacher at Dwight Morrow High School in 1969.

He even went on to pursue earth science with a focus on meteorology at the State University of New York.

Although he is a licensed meteorologist, Mr. Sig has mainly taught physical and earth science, chemistry and physics. Over the years, however, he has taught elective courses such as forensic science and has been the supervisor of the Car Club, something for which he has a personal interest.

His car hobby and obsession with mustangs initially began with his brother’s purchase of a Ford Mustang.

Mr. Signorelli recalls saving money from his first year teaching job to purchase a 70 Mustang Boss 303. Over the years, his interest in cars has even gotten him involved in  car racing.

“People at the track like to say I cheat because I know the laws of physics and therefore I have an advantage over them. I tell them that community colleges teach physics and that they should take it,” Mr. Signorelli jokingly stated.

Despite his long career as a teacher, from 1985 to 1992, Mr. Signorelli worked in the industry of Pepsi and Seagram as a senior research chemist. During this time period, he also worked in the summer as a research organic chemist, leading to the development of well-known flavors: mug root beer, orange slice, cherry pepsi, and even the iced tea that is served at Taco Bell.

He went back to teaching in 1992 when the company he worked for relocated to Canada.  

Since then, Mr. Signorelli has developed a special place in his heart for this school.

“There’s a diversity in the Englewood school system that I didn’t see back in those days anywhere else. Quite frankly, that diversity has always been there.This is the United Nations and I absolutely like that,” asserted Mr. Sig, a staunch supporter of Civil Rights.

He remembers attending many open marches back in college when Civil Rights was a big issue. Even today, Mr.  Sig along with his wife devote a lot of their free time to political activities such as civil rights and women’s rights.

The highlights of his career also include having taught now-famous celebrities, John Travolta and Sarah Jessica Parker.

One of his other former students now works at Princeton University. This has provided several Academies students an opportunity to obtain an internship at the plasma lab there.

His worst memory as a teacher, however, is having had 22 different principals and 17 different superintendents during the 44 years he has taught this school, preventing the school district from improving. He claims that the only stable thing during his years was how the district had only 7 different department of science chairmen.

Mr. Signorelli’s talent has been recognized, as was evident with the number of awards he had received over his

I will always have a little spot in my heart for this place.

career. They include awards and recognition from Princeton University, the American Chemistry Society, the American Institute of Chemists, Flavor Chemistry Society, and American Meteorological Society.

He admits that science is true passion and that he will not stop teaching what he loves the most.

“Science is my hobby. I give a month off my time during the summer to the National Science Foundation.I have visited volcano sites and have been recently offered to visit the retreating glaciers in Alaska.”

Besides his plans outside of the DMAE campus after his retirement, Mr. Sig promised that he will visit us often.

“Even when I was in industry, I never missed a graduation at DM high school since 1969. Last year, when I was in hospital, I got out couple of days before graduation and I attended it even though I was not moving around much. I will always have a little spot in my heart for this place.”