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  • Writer's pictureThis Is Rutherford

This is Joan Lord

Updated: May 30, 2021

By Jennifer Ersalesi

Joan Lord has made a lasting impact on Rutherford high school students, her colleagues, and the community where she both teaches and lives. Lord has been employed with the Rutherford School District for forty-three years. This June, Joan Lord will retire, so This is Rutherford spoke with her to learn more about her career, the memories she will take with her, and the highlights of her career.

Rutherford High School Principal, Frank Morano explained, "Mrs. Lord IS Rutherford High School. She is involved in so many facets of our school and has impacted the lives of so many students over the years. She is the first person to volunteer for areas outside her job description to assist anyone and everyone. She will be missed more than anyone can imagine."

TIR: What are some of the many roles you have played in the district?

Joan Lord: I have been a Class Advisor five times. I have done morning detention, been a Football and Basketball announcer, handled crowd control, taught 11th and 12th-grade Physical Education and 9th and 10th-grade Health, coordinated and planned Project Graduation, acted as Volleyball coordinator, and was the Fashion show announcer/organizer.

"Joan and I were both young coaches and teachers in the High School. I believe she came to the High School about two years after I did. When she coached volleyball, I was coaching girl's basketball and softball so we had many of the same athletes and I got to know her well. Her presence in the community is strong as she is a Rutherfordian and is a fixture at all athletic events, the master of ceremonies at the annual Senior Fashion Show, and a multiple-time Class Advisor. Joan always cared about the students and she understood the importance of school culture and was supportive of so many activities that engaged the students and faculty. One example is the annual Project Graduation student-faculty volleyball game she organized. That one event fostered school spirit, helped build rapport between teachers and students, and benefited Project Graduation. Someone like Joan will never really be replaced, " Jack Hurley, Superintendent.

TIR: How have you seen things change over the years and how have they stayed the same?

JL: I think the population of Rutherford has changed in many ways but has still stayed the same in many ways. I always found it unique to RHS that people go to school here, buy a house here and raise their children here. It is a very special town. People here also make friends and seem to keep them for life. I think the thing that has stayed the same is the students. Rutherford's kids are great and that hasn’t changed. I think of Rutherford as an oasis in the middle of Bergen County. You know Rutherford is a good place to work by the fact that so many teachers live in Rutherford and send their kids to Rutherford.

TIR: What have you enjoyed most about being a teacher in Rutherford?

JL: By far the kids, we have great kids with big hearts. The fact that the administration lets you teach and doesn’t constantly bother you.

Judy Leonard, Business and Technology Teacher at RHS, told TIR, "Joan will be missed because she always gave 100 percent to the students at RHS. Whenever there was an event where we were raising money or voting for the Homecoming Court, or counting ballots for Student Council Representatives or Student Council Officers, I would look behind me and there would be Joan asking me 'ok, how do you want me to help you!' She was not even the Advisor of the club but she knew we were doing something for the "kids" or for a "cause" and she was there to lend a helping hand. Joan's heart is BIG and for those students and co-workers she touched, that is how she will be remembered! She was Bulldog Strong! 💙"

TIR: Which sports have you coached?

JL: I coached Volleyball for 22 years, Basketball, Bowling with Mrs. Dernelle, and Softball.

"Mrs. Lord has been the cornerstone of our department, high school, and our entire community. She has played one of the most influential roles for so many of our children over the course of her life here in Rutherford. As a recreation camp counselor, educator, coach, mentor, class advisor, gatekeeper of driver's licenses, and so much more, there is NOT a student that has come through RHS that has not been influenced by her as a person and professional. She will be greatly missed and her legacy as one of the best is cemented securely as part of her legacy!" David Frazier, RHS Athletic Director, told TIR.

TIR: What have you enjoyed about coaching?

JL: Coaching gives you a unique opportunity to see kids in a different light. Sometimes you're their friend, sometimes their parent or psychologist. I have made lifelong friends through coaching and I still hear from my girls. I also liked being able to challenge my kids and watch them rise to situations they didn’t know they could handle. Watching them grow as young women.

"I have been at RHS for 31 years, starting in the library and since 2010 I have been working in the Athletic Office. I have known Joan for all these years. We have always had a great rapport throughout these years. But since I have been in Athletics, we have worked more closely. She is that go-to girl if you need anything. She would emcee many athletic events, do crowd control and even be site manager if needed. I will miss her and her fashionable athletic wear with all her matching sneakers. Happy well deserved retirement," Camille (Mazur) Heydorn, Athletic Office Secretary, explained.

Margaret Nastasi, Business and Computers Teacher, told TIR, "The teacher and coach, Joan Lord, is an act that cannot be followed. As a coach, she was competitive, knowledgeable, and respectful to her players. She wanted to get the best out of them, and they, in turn, wanted to give her their best. She identified her players’ strengths and made them understand their position on the team. She recognized their weaknesses and communicated how to improve them. Practices were rigorous and purposeful, but always with a bit of humor to lighten the intense moments. When I first came to RHS, I accepted the JV Volleyball coach position. Joan Lord became my first coach, mentor, counselor, and friend. She taught me how to talk to my players, run a practice, and gain confidence in making vital decisions on the court. She taught me that I needed to coach and teach as the person that I am, bringing my own personality both on the court and in the classroom. She taught me how important it was to listen, notice, and communicate with my students and players."

TIR: Tell us about teaching driving. How many years have you been teaching students how to drive?

JL: I have been teaching driving for twenty-one years and think I have driven half of Rutherford. It started as a part-time job and is now something I do 7 days a week. I will continue to drive after I stop teaching. I often say being in the car with a kid for six hours is like being in a confessional. You really get to know someone. I like it because again you see kids in a different light and they see you as a person.

TIR: Do you have a funny memory you can share?

JL: I once took a kid driving and we went around a turn too fast and ended up on someone's front lawn. He had his foot on the gas and I had my foot on the brake. When I calmed him down I said, "okay now how do we get down." We drove down the driveway and I don’t think the people even knew we were there. I had people pee in my car, have anxiety attacks, refuse to come out of the house for a driving lesson, and cry because I wouldn’t take them on the highway (feared for my life).

TIR: What have been some of the highlights of your career?

JL: Having my children while at RHS and watching them go through the school system (not always easy). Winning state championships in Volleyball. Watching my kids play sports at Rutherford. Going to Toms River for the state baseball championship (We Won). My daughter being named Athlete of Week for the Bergen Record. Being the first Mom and daughter duo who were inducted into the Rutherford Athletic Hall of Fame. Being inducted into the St. Mary's Hall of Fame for Softball. Overall just being part of a very comfortable, encouraging place to teach. I have enjoyed every minute.

"Joan’s office was an open door. Always available to any student/player who would just stop in for advice, a shoulder to lean on, or just to talk. She was never judgmental, just listened. I always admired this about Joan, the comfortable connection she portrayed. Most important, Joan was my friend. Many, many years of family ups and downs, shared memories, and genuine talks. My hope for Joan is that she enjoys these well-deserved retirement years, relaxing with family, and taking time for all the things she loves to do," Margaret Nastasi, Business/ Computers Teacher, told TIR.

TIR: What will you miss the most about being at Rutherford High School?

JL: The kids and feeling of community at RHS. I have made great friends and I will miss seeing them every day. Just keeping busy. There was always something to do at RHS. I am not the type of person to just sit still.

TIR: What will you do after retirement?

JL: Stay in Rutherford for a while and go back and forth to Vegas to see my grandkids

I have three grandchildren with Katie, my daughter, and a new granddaughter coming in August with my son Kasey.

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