WALLINGFORD — There’s a room in Holy Trinity School that has 48 Dom Forinos in it.
In neat rows along the walls hang class graduation pictures (two are missing), most of which have a smiling Dom Forino, who has been teaching at the school for 50 years. In the 20 most recent years he’s easy to spot — right side, front row and smiling next to his roughly 30 graduating students.
Forino teaches math and science to 8th-graders, but has taught history and religion at the school as well.
He’s been coaching the softball team for 25 years and used to coach basketball too. Some of his favorite memories of his tenure are team trips to Boston and New York for games.
"Dom is a man with a deep, abiding faith who gives Holy Trinity School its heartbeat,” said Sister Kathleen Kelly, school principal. “As an educator, Mr. Forino has adapted to educational trends without sacrificing the traditional values and rigors of a Catholic school education."
Forino started at Holy Trinity School in 1968, soon after graduating from Sacred Heart University with a math degree. He’s had opportunities to teach at other schools, but has always been happy at the downtown parochial school.
Once he was even accused of sabotaging a job interview because the thought of leaving Holy Trinity made him unhappy.
“I love the school. It’s as much home as where I grew up in Waterbury and where I’m living now,” Forino said.
Forino may be in his 70s, but you can still find him playing basketball with students on the playground — and yes, he can be competitive.
Forino says one of the best compliments he’s received was from a student that explained he never got in trouble with Forino because “Mr. Forino remembers what it feels like to be a kid.”
His teaching approach puts extra emphasis on cultivating genuine relationships with students, something he learned from two college professors who made efforts to make sure he was getting the most out of his education while still living a full life.
“If I was anything like that, like they were to me — to any of my students — I would be very proud of what I’ve done here,” Forino said
“It can’t disconnect. It cannot be just a teacher-student relationship. It’s gotta be personal, it has to.”
He also teaches from an understanding that comes from being a father to his own children — an experience that changed the way he disciplined students, transitioning from pretty strict to more lenient and “earthy.”
“He's one of those guys you couldn’t get enough of,” said Tim Ryan, who had Forino for math, science and as a basketball coach in 1970. "As an adult, you can see why he’s lasted so long. Because he truly enjoys what he does.
"His patience and temperament were just superior," he added.
Standing at the giant windows in his classroom, which he claims have the best view in the school, Forino lays praise on the community that has kept him so happy to work at Holy Trinity School for so long.
He is in awe of the other teachers and thankful for the great parents he’s worked with.
“It feels like it hardly happened. I’ve always appreciated being here… I keep enjoying it, I’ve never felt like I’ve gone to work — I never described heading to Holy Trinity as going to work, not once in my life,” Forino said.
“Being here a lot of years doesn’t define you as a teacher. I’ve had teachers in here that really outperform me in things they do for the kids. I guess right about now, I’m here as much for mentoring and being a grandfatherly type,” Forino said.
Forino has approached the prospect of retirement on a year by year basis and has felt that as long as he’s able he would keep teaching.
When he does finally retire, he knows his wife would love to move to California, a place he’s visited and loved himself.
Forino takes some pride in 50 years, but admits teaching until 2020 would be even cooler. “Then I can brag that I’ve taught in seven different decades here,” he said.