Beloved Turlock teacher surprises students as ‘Phantom of the Opera’

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TURLOCK, Calif. (KTXL) -- The Turlock High School campus is not exactly a Broadway stage, but agricultural teacher Joe DiGrazia made a theatrical entrance on Halloween no one would want to miss.

“I got to school not expecting to see the ‘Phantom of the Opera’ right in front of me,” student Jayce Rocha said.

It was a treat for students who mostly see DiGrazia’s serious side.

“Pretty stern. He’s always been a pretty serious person but he definitely has a goofy side to his personality and that definitely was unleashed today,” senior Alexis Rangel said.

Every four years for the past 35 years of DiGrazia's teaching career has involved flair, makeup and a whole lot of entertainment.

“I remember I was like an IRS agent. I was an Irish mortician,” he said. “I think it was just the shock effect for the kids, just to catch them off guard, to give them something to laugh at.”

The transformations also involve a full makeover.

“He usually has a full beard and a full mustache and none of that was present today, so that was the most interesting part of today,” Rangel said.

But this year was extra special. DiGrazia is retiring in June.

“Thought about that, it’s kind of melancholy, nostalgic because I guess I gotta figure out something else to do,” he said.

DiGrazia has worn many costumes but it seems his students like what’s underneath the makeup the best.

“He’s a really stern guy but once you get to know him, this is him," student Bailey Kindle said.

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