“I was very fortunate actually,” Napolitano said. “I got kicked in a ‘dark spot,’ of my brain and only have left (pe-ripheral) blindness, so I’m very lucky.”
After a long healing process, Napolitano chose to finish his college career close to home and graduated from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, where his father once played football. Raised in an entire family of “edu-cators,” he swore he would never teach, but after some encouragement from his sister, he finally decided to con-sider it.
“She pointed out that I loved children and had wanted to work with them, so it wasn’t really such a stretch,” he said. “Plus I grew up in a family of teachers, so I decided to just give it a try.”
Ironically, he spent his first year out of college teaching health and physical education at the Performance Learning Center in Fort Oglethorpe, where his father Angelo “Nubby” Napolitano was once the principal. From there, he moved to West Side Elementary.
Ten years later, Napolitano said he’s very glad he took the advice. Although teaching health and PE at West Side Elementary has been a big part of his days for the past nine years, he’s also enjoyed several years of coaching bas-ketball. He assisted former head coach Jerry Jones at Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe High School for four years and now coaches middle school basketball at Baylor School in Chattanooga, where he attended when he was young.
“I’m glad I took this road,” he said. “At first I was hesitant, but I really love it. I’m happy right now. It’s a little hectic working at both places. I have to come to work a few hours earlier, but it’s worth it. I enjoy my job, and I’m really happy to be back at Baylor.”
Asked about winning the award, he said he was very surprised.
“I don’t think about that stuff or strive for it, honestly,” he said. “I actually get a little embarrassed in those types of situations, but it was a great honor. By far, my parents and my family were the biggest influence on my success but I’ve had the opportunity to watch and learn from a lot of good people in the system like Jerry Jones and J.R. Jones (principal at Ringgold High School) and Chris Byrum (former West Side Elementary principal). When you have a good administration, it’s easy to work for them, and who you work with or around is fun, so that makes it worthwhile.”
Napolitano and his wife Elizabeth have been married for three years and live on Signal Mountain. When he’s not teaching or coaching, he said he spends a lot of time golfing.
“I grew up golfing,” he said. “My sister golfed at Ole Miss. Then I got lucky and married the right woman,” he joked. “Her house was on the Signal Mountain golf course, so I’m very fortunate. That was a huge perk.”