Cafasso says goodbye to GHS


Treely Dowd

Carol Cafasso poses in her classroom for a photo

BEN CARPENTER, Arts and Culture Editor

Carol Cafasso, longtime chemistry teacher at Gloucester High School, recently announced she will be leaving the faculty at the end of this school year. She will be remaining on Cape Ann, however, as she accepts a position at Rockport High School starting in the fall. A native of Gloucester, Cafasso has had connections to GHS for almost her entire life. 

“My dad was an elementary school principal here in Gloucester,” Cafasso said. “I heard a lot of stories about teaching and learning throughout my childhood. I would go in in the summers and before school to help him and the other teachers. And then during college I was a substitute teacher here.”

She joined GHS’ staff permanently in 2000, when she realized the job was a great fit for both her and the school.

“I was working full-time as a pharmacist then,” Cafasso said. “I was a single parent, I wanted to protect my nights and weekends. And there was a shortage of science and math teachers, so it worked out.”

As someone who has seen GHS at many different points in time, Cafasso had a lot to share about how the students and teachers have changed over the last half-century.

“The student population has gone down,” Cafasso said. “In my year we graduated about 550 students, now it’s less than 200. But we have diversity now in more areas than we used to. We’re honoring cultural and racial diversity a lot more, which is a good thing.”

In addition to chemistry, Cafasso has taught physics, ecology, principles of technology, and SEI life science. Over her twenty-three years, she has written dozens of grants for the science department. All together, they represent an investment of hundreds of thousands dollars in laboratory equipment and educational resources. Among these include online textbooks, probes to collect ecological data from GHS’ gardens, and new hot plates and pH monitors for chemistry labs.

“I wrote the grant to bring [AP Environmental Science] to our school,” said Cafasso. “We got some water-testing kits to run the desirable labs in that curriculum. It’s very valuable to run those labs for teachers to see firsthand how they work, to get the background information and the insight.”

Rising senior Aurelia Harrison took honors chemistry with Cafasso. “You always feel safe in Ms. Cafasso’s room,” said Harrison. ” She’s been nothing but a positive force in my life, and the lives of her students. I’ve never been a STEM person, but she encouraged me to look at Chemistry differently and I got a lot ourt of her class. I will sincerely miss her.”

Reflecting on what she felt her strengths were as a teacher, Cafasso again emphasized her devotion to laboratory science. She recalled a time when she got to share how to run a certain activity more sustainably with a large audience.

“Sheila King, a bio teacher, wanted to do a diffusion cube lab with agar,” Cafasso said. “It was perfect, but we had all this agar left over. So we figured out a way to recycle it… I wrote an article on how to recycle agar, and it got published in Solutions Magazine.”

As she prepares to leave her classroom behind, Cafasso says she has found happiness in sharing her love of science with so many kids over her time here.

“It’s when the whole team works together and is looking out for the students’ best interests”, Cafasso said. “Through pushing, pulling, kicking, or inspiring, to get students to perform at a higher level, that’s what means the most to me.”