Mr. Don Portolese
by Frank Cackowski

Most individuals think of a teacher when asked to name someone who has made a  significant  impact on one’s life.  In my case, there are two high school teachers and a college professor who continue to provide latent everlasting impacts on this retired teacher.  Since I spent 32 years in a high school setting, their impacts are even more powerful and meaning.

Don Portolese taught drafting at MHS.  Several other young energetic teachers also taught the Industrial Arts (i.e. Woods, Print Shop, Electronics, Machine Shop, etc.).

Don had a “real” knack for teaching.  One seldom forgot what he taught, and Drafting was a very technical subject.  Using a no-nonsense approach to his methods, everyone was in his class for a constructive reason.  Behavior was seldom a problem.  At the same time he created a caring atmosphere.  Indeed he was a role model for many of us.

After graduating from MHS, Don continued to call and tell me that he thought I could be a successful teacher.  I wasn’t sure what career track to pursue so I took Don’s advice and decided to attend Indiana State University.  I enjoyed those years, but Don Portolese was THE reason I became a teacher.  For 32 years, I enjoyed every day in the classroom at the same school ,  South Bend, LaSalle High School.

He created many deep and long lasting bonds on both a professional and personal level.  I was fortunate to experience [and continue to experience] this on both fronts.  Don became a professional friend since I entered the teaching profession as an Industrial Arts teacher.   We attended many meetings and conferences together even though employed by neighboring school corporations.  We also continue to visit each other on a more personal level now that we are both retired.  We swap stories and memories….. while  2-3 hour visits seem like 10 minutes.

Many of his students have graduated as successful architects/engineers.  Some own their own construction companies and many have entered “drafting-related” occupations.

I’m overjoyed to be able to thank Don Portolese for his lifelong efforts as a teacher especially in this public forum.  I thank him for being there for me.  I salute him for always putting the student FIRST.  I send him a handshake and a hug for being a personal friend.

Frank Cackowski
MHS Class of 1961

Don Portolese
born March 27, 1932;
died January 19, 2011

Mishawaka teacher tributes:
|Auggie Baetsle| |Emily Davidson|
Mary Hess| |Charles Karst|
Thelma Martin, 1| |Thelma Martin, 2|
Don Portolese| |Margaret Powell|
Earl Stine| |Helen Stoddart|
Rosa Weikel| |Marvin Wood|
A Collection of Thanks|