Salvatore D. Rotondo, 78, of Bridgeport, a much-loved teacher and principal who made a difference in the lives of thousands of area schoolchildren, died Sunday, Sept. 16, of cardiac arrest at his home.

A Bridgeport native, Mr. Rotondo graduated from Bridgeport High School. He graduated with honors from West Chester State College in 1962 with a bachelor's degree in social studies and English.

His first job was teaching social studies and English at Stewart Junior High School in the Norristown School District. He stayed from 1962 to 1967 and coached the ninth-grade baseball team from 1963 to 1967. The team was undefeated in 1967, his family said.

Mr. Rotondo made such an impression on former students that when news of his death surfaced last week, many posted memories online.

"I was a student of his at Stewart Junior High School in the 1960s," Caroline Antrim of Perkiomenville wrote. "If anyone asks me about my favorite teacher, I certainly remember Mr. Rotondo. He had a motivating way of teaching and engaging everyone in the classroom with jokes and praise of good work. We were lucky to have him."

"I met Mr. Rotondo in Junior High, as a punk kid who just lost his father and knew everything," posted Scott Leister of Oaks. "Mr. Rotondo took the time to make sure I stayed in line, and that was not easy, considering the kid I was."

In 1967, Mr. Rotondo accepted a position teaching eighth-grade social studies and English in the Upper Merion School District.

While there, Mr. Rotondo earned a master's degree from Villanova University. During the 1985-86 school year, he was appointed principal of Bridgeport Elementary School, and he continued in that role until retiring in 2001.

William Del Collo, a friend, and teacher and principal in the Upper Dublin School District, said the best compliment anyone can give an educator is that he or she made a difference in the lives of children.

"Sal Rotondo made a huge difference in the lives of so many children — and adults," Del Collo said. "He was inspirational. Anyone who met him could tell he was a special person. He had strong beliefs about family and community and helping children."

After the Bridgeport and Upper Merion schools merged in 1967, Bridgeport Elementary was stigmatized as low-performing, Del Collo said. Mr. Rotondo turned around the school so profoundly that it qualified as a national "Blue Ribbon" winner for excellence. "He was so proud of that," Del Collo said.

In retirement, Mr. Rotondo served as supervisor of student teaching at Cabrini University.

"Sal was my supervisor at Cabrini," Tiffany Burton of Norristown posted online. "He was a remarkable man who genuinely cared for everyone. He always had a way of making everyone around him smile."

Mr. Rotondo was the recipient of the Triple S (Italian American) Sportsman's Club Award in 1967, the National "Blue Ribbon" Principal Award in 2001, and the Optimist Club of Valley Forge's Life Membership Award.

An avid sports fan, he followed the Phillies, Villanova basketball, and Notre Dame football.

He had a summer home in Ocean City, N.J., where he enjoyed the beach and cooking breakfast for family and guests.

"Sal was the mayor of the 37th Street beach," wrote Stan and Joan Suwala online. "He knew everyone and was liked by everyone."

Mr. Rotondo married Judith M. Carr. The couple had four children. She died in 2006 at age 63.

He is survived by children Jennifer Moley, Christopher Rotondo, Carla Rotondo, and Salvatore J. Rotondo; seven grandchildren.; a brother; and two sisters.

Services were Friday, Sept. 21.