‘Mr. Cap’ influenced thousands

To the Editor:

In a sea of deeply talented educators working in the Trumbull public schools, Roger Capobianco (or “Mr. Cap,” as he was called by his students) was exceptional. Mr. Cap’s infectious, larger-than-life personality, his gleaming ear-to-ear smile, and his passion for the classroom made him a beloved figure by colleagues and students alike. His influence on those who passed through his classroom door was nothing short of profound. Today, thousands of former students, spread all over the globe, owe Mr. Cap an enormous debt of gratitude. I am one of those students.

Mr. Cap would often delay the start of class with any student willing to discuss the only subject that transcended the middle school curriculum: the New York Yankees. And it was never an elementary discussion. He would dive into hitting and pitching statistics, hypothesize about potential trades, and offer his scouting views of up-and-coming players. Scouting was something that came naturally to Mr. Cap. He did it every day. But instead of a Yankee Stadium, he had his classroom. And instead of the players, he had his students.

No one had a more innate ability to help students reach their full potential than Mr. Cap. And no one could do it on the scale that he did, from the naturally gifted, who often cherish the value of their education and are self-driven to maximize their learning experience, to those who lacked that inherent ambition, who told themselves: “I’ll never be good at this,” and who needed the proverbial “kick in the butt” from a mentor who genuinely cared.

Mr. Cap excelled not by yelling or chastising students, but by getting those students to want to be engaged. Seldom was a social studies lesson about one of the great world events taught without an entire class breaking out in laughter, courtesy of one of Mr. Cap’s sharp-witted jokes. At the same time, he maintained the highest of expectations from his students. Show up for class unprepared, and you could feel his genuine disappointment, because he so badly wanted you to succeed.

Mr. Cap was always willing to go to bat for his students. I’ll never forget receiving a detention from my Algebra teacher for talking in class, the result of which was my removal from a long-scheduled field trip to the Bridgeport federal courthouse to observe a day of arguments. Perhaps understanding my calling even before I did, Mr. Cap took up the role of consiglieri, negotiating with the other teacher an exception so that I would be allowed back onto the trip. I can still remember the exact issues that were before the court that day. It was that experience, and Mr. Cap’s mentorship, that inspired me to become a lawyer.

The world is a better place because Mr. Cap was on it. And I am a better lawyer, a better father, and a better man, because I knew him. Later this year, I will stand in a Manhattan federal courtroom in the most significant public corruption trial of the year. When the judge bangs the gavel, asking the lawyers to proceed with opening arguments, I will think back to Mr. Cap, and be thankful.