By MIKE DONOGHUE
MONTPELIER – Longtime Essex High teacher and coach Joe Gonillo was inducted into the Vermont Principals’ Association Hall of Fame at the Capitol Plaza in Montpelier on May 4.
Gonillo passed around plenty of praise to the sold-out audience about his wife, Tina, and many of his fellow teachers, coaches and student-athletes at Essex High.
He arrived at Essex after graduating from St. Michael’s College in Colchester in 1981 “and for the next 35 years, he used his unique skill set to make a profoundly positive mark on the Essex community,” according to the printed program for the banquet.
The VPA noted Gonillo helped form and guide one of the most successful high school track & field programs in Vermont history.
In the modern era, Essex High School girls have tallied 13 state titles, while the boys collected six.
Considering the early days of track & field, when the sport was based on events, not gender, Essex earned 42 team titles between 1982 and 2016, the program noted.
Besides teaching English and supporting colleagues in his academic department, Gonillo also found time to write a weekly sports column for The Essex Reporter.
“In all his roles, Joe displayed what we all know him best for, and that is his big heart,” fellow teacher-coach Shawn Montague said. “For years, Joe has sincerely reached out to students and athletes of all abilities. He has changed lives.”