LINDEN, NJ — When Anthony Cataline started his career in the Linden school system, his classroom had a chalkboard and erasers, No. 2 pencils and paper notebooks. By the end of a 48-year career, all his students had their own MacBook laptops with more computing power than Apollo 11.
Technology can change so rapidly that it can be difficult for Cataline and the Linden school system to keep up.
“I sometimes feel like a dinosaur when it comes to technology,” Cataline said with a laugh in a recent interview with LocalSource.
Known to some of his students as “Wolfman Jack,” an homage to his beard that gave him the look of the famous 1970s disc jockey, Cataline has seen five decades of changes in both Linden and its schools. After turning 70 years old in May, he felt he owed it to himself to do more.
“I don’t know if there’s any magic in 50,” he said, as opposed to retiring after 48 years. “It’s just a round number. It’s time to do the things that working limits you from doing. Traveling a little more, going to the beach a little more, going on my boat a little more, riding the bicycle a little more.”
Cataline started his career as a teacher in Soehl Junior High School in 1971, just after he graduated from Newark State College. He later earned his master’s degree in educational administration from Kean College in 1978.
Cataline became an administrative aide at McManus Middle School in 1986, and in 1988 became principal at School No. 10, where he stayed for 11 years.
He later returned to McManus as principal in 1999 for six years. In 2005, Cataline was named principal of School No. 4, and he remained there until he announced his retirement at the end of the recent school year.
As principal at School No. 10, Cataline introduced calculators and computers to the classrooms, was the first recipient of a family science grant that funded after-school science projects, and supported the arts and the first social work program in Linden schools.
Throughout his career he created numerous initiatives, including an alternative program for disaffected eighth-graders, the Kiwanis K-Kids program, safety patrol and the Student of the Month recognition program. He even revamped the school’s holiday shop, giving all students the opportunity to experience the holidays without the need for money.
Cataline also has a passion for music, his first major before he found his love for teaching. He enjoyed sharing this passion with his students and spoke with pride of when his students came to him to resume their music lessons after watching him and others perform in shows. A veteran saxophone player, he will continue his music in his retirement.
“Cataline always lead by example,” said School No. 4 Vice Principal Sue Olivero in a recent interview with LocalSource. “He always had a way of cultivating strong leaders. He taught me everything I know, and I hope to continue to make him proud as the new School No. 4 principal.”
Acting Superintendent Denise Cleary said the Linden public schools won’t be the same without Cataline.
“I think a lot of us are having a hard time imagining our district without Mr. Cataline,” Cleary said in a district release announcing the retirement. “Throughout his long and distinguished career, he helped mentor countless faculty members and had a positive impact on generations of students. But it is because of these personal connections that his legacy will live on in Linden for years to come.”
Cataline said his staff was “like family” and that he loved interacting with his students, which is what he will miss most in retirement.
“I’ll miss it,” Cataline said with a smile, noting that his next chapter includes a house by the shore and a sailboat.