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Bill Telasky, a longtime substitute teacher at Columbia High School, celebrated his 85th birthday on Monday.

A familiar face to Columbia High School students and staff is Bill Telasky, or Mr. T as he is affectionately known. Mr. T has been a regular substitute teacher at Columbia since 1990. Prior to that, Mr. T taught at CBA for nearly 30 years meaning he has spent six decades in education.

Mr. T is celebrating his 85th birthday today, and to the surprise of no one, he spent the day subbing at Columbia. He was given a birthday cake and special gifts from teachers and staff.

Happy Birthday, Mr. T!

Reflections from Faculty, Staff and Students

“Mr. T is one of a kind. He is always upbeat and happy to be here and around our kids. He knows many, many kids by name. And the kids enjoy having him here.”

Patty Farnan
Assistant Principal

“I have had the opportunity to have Mr. T as a substitute teacher here at Columbia High School as well as work alongside him as an employee, and can honestly tell you that he is an inspirational individual. He is optimistic, hard working, passionate, has a great memory and is a great team player. All of these qualities put together are hard to find these days, and we are so grateful to have him here in our lives.”

Shannon MacFarland
Secretary to Principal Michael Harkin

“Bill is our go-to Math Sub – but he’s more than that! Kids love to hear they have Mr. T. as their substitute. Bill always has a smile on his face and knows everyone’s name. Hundreds, if not thousands, of kids that have gone through Columbia know Bill as a friendly, positive presence.  Teachers truly appreciate Bill’s willingness to happily help out, with attention to detail and jovial banter! Happy, happy Birthday Bill!”

Marilyn Thompson
Math Teacher

“Mr. T is a legend around here. We all love listening to the wisdom he shares with us.”

Evan Farnan ’22

“Mr. T is super cool, especially continuing to sub here throughout COVID. Everybody loves hearing about his basketball stories.”

Tim Neeson ’22

“As an alumnus of Columbia High School (Class of 2001), I can recall entering Columbia in the Fall of 1997 and quickly learning the nuances of this final stop on our K-12 educational journey.

For the life of me, I can’t recall which class Mr. T was our sub in during my first month or so here at Columbia… but all it took was once and Mr. T knew my nameYou see, it was tradition that one wasn’t really a dyed-in-the-wool Columbia student until Mr. T knew your name.  

He would see you in the hallway and call out DOZENS of students by name during the five minute passing time, all the while singing “1, 2, 3, look at Mr. T” or other miscellaneous tunes.

Corny?  Yes.  Loved by every single student?  Also yes.

Over my four years as a student, I had the great fortune of having Mr. T as a substitute many times.  I can recall Mr. T bringing us in June of 2001 (during our senior year) to the cafeteria to partake in our LAST Taco Day and letting us indulge in a fine feast back in the classroom.  (I’m fairly certain that activity wasn’t in the sub plans… but he is the man for letting us do that.)

There was no horsing around, no misbehavior like there might have been with other substitute teachers… we came in, Mr. T made the personal connection by greeting you by name, and then we got to work.

I subbed alongside Mr. T here at Columbia from 2001-2006 when I was at UAlbany and Saint Rose.  Then, what an honor it was to be hired here as a teacher and have Mr. T be my sub.  

Mr. T is loved by all of us.  What an honor that, over his 32 years, I have known him for 24 of those years.  He is a true Columbia institution.”

Jeff Tooker
Social Studies Teacher