Peter Don Rose, 57, a highly-popular and respected teacher in the City of Falls Church Schools since 1975, died Friday, Dec. 14, after a long battle with cancer. He taught at the Thomas Jefferson Elementary and, more recently, Mary Ellen Henderson Middle School in the city.
Hundreds of colleagues, former students, parents and community leaders attended a memorial service in his honor Monday at the Temple Rodef Shalom.
Born on Feb. 12, 1950 in New York City, he was a graduate of Jamaica High School in Jamaica, New York. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Philosophy from Northeastern University in Boston and a Master of Education Degree in Reading from the same school.
He began his career in public education in 1974 at Brookside Elementary School in Yorktown Heights, New York, where he taught the first grade. He moved to Falls Church the following year and has been a teacher for 32 years here, specializing in social studies. Only a few days after the beginning of school this September, he announced that he needed to take an extended leave of absence to focus on his health.
Thomas Jefferson Elementary’s students and staff paid tribute to Rose in 2005 when a change in the configuration of the school system’s grade structure sent him to the new Henderson Middle School. He was presented with a rose bush, which he asked be planted outside the school.
According to Thomas Jefferson Principal Trudy Taylor, a plaque in honor of Rose will now be placed next to that rose bush.
In 1999 he was nominated for the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award. He served on various school committees and was one of the first Curriculum, Instruction and Resource Teachers (CIRTs) in Falls Church.
He was first hired here in 1975 by then Superintendent Dr. Warren Pace. “He was very impressive,” Pace said in a statement this week. “He really knew elementary education, struck me as a very caring, dedicated individual and enjoyed working with children.”
Current Superintendent Dr. Lois Berlin said, “Meeting Peter was like meeting someone I had known and loved for a long time and wanted to know forever. His humor, sensitivity and love of life were infectious and he touched many, many students, colleagues and parents through his long career in the Falls Church Public Schools.”
“Mr. Rose is a wonderful asset to our staff,” wrote former principal William Thomas. “Because of his intellect and delightful personality, he is able to provide his students with a stimulating program of instruction. He also willingly initiates numerous activities beyond the regular classroom activities. The extremely successful Renaissance Festival and the capably-supervised Safety Patrol Program are just two examples.”
“Peter provided outstanding teacher leadership,” said Assistant Superintendent Gloria Guba. “He offered inspired and informed guidance to all of us and always led with unbridled commitment, expertise and joy.”
“Peter was a truly amazing person and you knew it as soon as you met him,” stated MEHMS Principal Ann McCarty. “He was a father, a friend, a teacher who no matter what was always positive, upbeat and reassuring. His ability to connect with students and staff was extraordinary and we miss him very much.”
Rose met his wife, Susan, at Northeastern University in 1971 and they were married in 1974. She, and daughters Cynthia and Stephanie, survive him.
Former Thomas Jefferson principal Greg Alexiou, speaking at the memorial for Rose Monday, said that one of the greatest tributes to Rose were the frequent requests by parents to have their children placed in Rose’s classroom.
“We were best of friends for over 30 years,” Alexiou said. “He was humble, generous and curious. For him, teaching was a perfect fit.”
He added, “Peter was my teacher. I never told him that.” When he visited the Rose household shortly after first meeting them, Alexiou noted how they laughed so easily. “He taught me how to have fun, that the world can be fun. He brought joy to the world and to my life.”
Others noted that Rose was “regarded as a leader of the community,” “someone to lean on, to come to in difficult moments. He loved to laugh and break out in verses of ‘Oklahoma!’ Students picked up on his personality. He was a man who sought peace and wholeness through deep spirituality. We drew strength from him.”