When classes began recently at Ecole Classique School in Metairie, students, faculty and staff didn’t have to look around the campus very long for Sal Federico, its founder and headmaster.
Federico was meeting and greeting students, something he has been doing for the past 70 years.
“I look forward to every new school year,” said Federico, 92. “Honestly, I just really enjoy coming to the campus each and every day. I love being around the students, teaching them and talking with them.
“They know my office door is always open. If any student has a problem or if they want to just come in to talk or even eat their lunch, they are welcomed in my office any time.”
As the headmaster, Federico oversees a student body of 350 to 400 students and a teaching staff of more than 30. And if that isn’t enough to keep him busy, Federico teaches two geometry classes to freshmen and sophomores.
“I enjoy being in the classroom,” Federico said. “The first time I taught a class, I was a senior at Loyola University, majoring in business. One of my professors asked me to teach an accounting class on Saturdays and so I did. My students were nuns, priests and brothers.”
After graduating from Loyola, Federico worked for a year as an accountant.
“Accounting just wasn’t for me — I wanted to be a full-time teacher,” Federico said. “So I guess you could say the good sisters, priests and brothers instilled in me the desire to become a teacher.”
Federico and his wife, Rose Marie Greco Federico, who died in 2012, opened Ecole Classique Uptown on Napoleon Avenue in 1956.
“We began with a kindergarten class and added a grade every year thereafter,” Federico recalled.
More than 20 years later, in 1979, the Federicos moved the school to 5236 Glendale St. in Metairie, where it remains. The school offers classes for 3-year-olds all the way through high school. The campus covers 11 acres and includes a preschool building, an elementary school building, a secondary school building, two gyms, a football-soccer-softball field, a baseball field, a swimming pool and play area.
All four of the Federico children have pursued careers in education and work with their dad at Ecole. Daughter Julie Federico Gernhauser is the admissions director, while daughter, Gina Federico Ney, is director of the preschool program.
Federico’s son, David, is principal of the high school and another son, Greg, is principal of the elementary division. He also serves as the school’s guidance counselor.
“I am very proud of my children,” Federico said. “It makes me so happy they all wanted to have careers in education. In fact, one of my grandchildren, Sean Schmidt, is teaching seventh- and eighth-grade social studies this year at Ecole.”
Other than having to use a walker to get around, Federico said he is in good health. And when he's asked if he ever plans to retire, the answer is quite simple.
“I plan to be here, teaching and running this school, until I close my eyes for good,” Federico said. “My focus is and has always been to make sure each and every student who comes to this school works hard, is successful in his or her studies and is happy, wanting to come to Ecole every day.”