This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.
It’s been more than 2,500 days since Philly teacher Klint Kanopka missed work. It’s an unlikely streak from an unlikely educator.
On May 30, 1982, Hall of Fame baseball player Cal Ripken Jr. played third base with the Baltimore Orioles in a 6-0 loss to the Toronto Blue Jays, thus beginning an unrivaled streak of 2,632 consecutive games played, which ended in 1998.
Philadelphia physics teacher Klint Kanopka has been nearly as durable, and his origin story is a lot more interesting.
It began in a dented Ford touring van parked outside the Knitting Factory, a prominent Brooklyn nightclub. That’s where Kanopka, seething and alone, tapped out a job application on his cell phone.
"I’m just like, ‘Screw this. I can’t do it anymore,’" Kanopka said. "I’m gonna become a teacher."
Moments earlier, Kanopka — a bass guitar player in the now-dissolved punk rock outfit Reign Supreme — had nearly come to blows with the band’s drummer. This was at the tail end of a hellish tour marked by small crowds and big arguments.
Kanopka wanted out.
"I sat in the van, pouted like a little baby, and filled out the application," he said.
After a brief stop at a middle school for students seeking credit recovery, Kanopka began teaching physics at Academy at Palumbo, a magnet high school in South Philadelphia.
He has never missed a day of work. As of March 3, he’d gone 2,575 days – the equivalent of about seven years – without taking a single day off.
Remarkably, that is only the fourth-longest streak in the School District of Philadelphia. The current record is 3,782 days, or a little over 10 years. (The champ, we’re told, was too bashful for an interview.) But Kanopka is among Philadelphia’s educational iron men, sitting on a streak that puts him in the top 0.05 percent of District teachers.
It’s an odd distinction for a guy who entered teaching in a fit of rage. But at this point, Kanopka — whose reaction to the streak when told of it amounted to a verbal shrug — figures he might as well keep showing up.
"At this point, it’s just like, better be a darn good reason if I’m not gonna show up," he said.