Seven South Huntington School District teachers, including Teacher of the Year winner Danielle Commander from Countrywood Primary Center, were honored at a ceremony Wednesday evening.
Also honored were Oakwood teacher Alice Macner, Birchwood’s Angela Tamberino, Maplewood teacher Maria Garafalo, Silas Wood teacher Patricia DeLorenzo, Stimson’s Stephen Scharpf and Walt Whitman’s Joseph Pipolo.
James Polansky, assistant superintendent for personnel and district services, gave a short speech before individual schools’ principals took over.
“In simple terms, [these teachers] represent South Huntington and their profession in the finest way possible,” Polansky said.
Principal of Oakwood Primary Center Eileen Kerrigan spoke on behalf of Macner. She said Macner had helped integrate the SMART Board into Oakwood and created a “stimulating math lab environment” for the children she taught.
Principal of Birchwood Intermediate School Anthony Ciccarelli said Tamberino incorporated jumping rope into her classroom to motivate students and had been a teacher in the South Huntington School District for almost 25 years.
Vito D’Elia, principal of Maplewood Intermediary School, said Garafalo "was a role model for educators everywhere.”
Roberta Lewis, principal of Silas Wood Sixth Grade Center, described DeLorenzo’s commitment, while Faye Robins, of Stimson Middle School, explained how Scharpf had co-authored the seventh and eighth grade science curriculum.
Kathleen Acker, principal of Walt Whitman High School, spoke of Pipolo’s unique teaching style and charisma.
Karen Siegel, principal of Countrywood Primary Center, then came up to speak on behalf of Commander.
“The influence of good teachers stays with us," Siegel said. “They are the people who change our lives.”
She spoke of Commander’s innate talent to teach children with special needs and the establishment of Countrywood’s peer ambassador program,which Commander created to pair children with disabilities with typically developing students to help them develop social skills. Siegel said that parents often described Commander as a wonderful communicator and having “the patience of a saint.”
Commander then took to the lectern to a standing ovation from the parents present in the audience.
“I’m humbled by this whole experience,” Commander said. “It means so much to me to be recognized by my colleagues.”
She said that being a teacher was one of the few decisions she has never questioned in her life and that her students are her biggest motivating factor. She touched on one moment in particular, when a student named Brian wrote her a three-page letter praising her and letting her know that he thought she was a great teacher. She ended by offering some simple advice.
“Kindness is contagious,” she said. “So please pay it forward.”