South Huntington's Best Honored

Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Rufus Shepard, Steve Toto, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Rufus Shepard, Steve Toto, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Patrick Tighe, Joe Centamore, and Eileen Kerrigan.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Patrick Tighe, Joe Centamore, and Eileen Kerrigan.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Laura Van Tassell, Barbara Kenney, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Laura Van Tassell, Barbara Kenney, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Lisa Crocco, Anthony Ciccarelli, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Lisa Crocco, Anthony Ciccarelli, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Dermot O’Connor, Vito D’Elia, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Dermot O’Connor, Vito D’Elia, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Vasken Kazandjian, Faye Robins, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Vasken Kazandjian, Faye Robins, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Robert Graziano, Kathleen Acker, and Joe Centamore.
Left to right: Dave Bennardo, Jim Kaden, NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Robert Graziano, Kathleen Acker, and Joe Centamore.
Maplewood students get into an impromptu “wave” to support their teacher, Mr. O’Connor.
Maplewood students get into an impromptu “wave” to support their teacher, Mr. O’Connor.
Left to right: NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Robert Graziano, Dermot O’Connor, Vasken Kazandjian, Rufus Shepard, Lisa Crocco, Patrick Tighe, and Laura Van Tassell.
Left to right: NYS Assemblyman Chad Lupinacci, Robert Graziano, Dermot O’Connor, Vasken Kazandjian, Rufus Shepard, Lisa Crocco, Patrick Tighe, and Laura Van Tassell.

It was a much-anticipated evening as the South Huntington Board of Education and the district’s administrators gave well-deserved recognition and praise to their top teachers during the annual Teacher of the Year celebration.

“It is our pleasure to highlight these great teachers, who have been identified by their peers as possessing exceptional instructional skills and holding a strong dedication to fostering the learning and growth of our students,” said Dr. Joseph T. Centamore, Assistant Superintendent for Personnel and District Services.

South Huntington’s districtwide teacher of the year is Mr. Rufus Shepard, a sixth-grade teacher at Silas Wood. “Mr. Shepherd is a well-rounded, positive role model to all students that cross his path,” said Silas Wood Principal Steve Toto. “He looks at the ‘whole child’ with a sense of understanding, holds them to high expectations, and encourages them to be the best that they can be.”

Mr. Shepard’s rise to one of teaching’s most coveted honors was neither typical nor easy. After graduating Walt Whitman High School in 1985, Mr. Shepard began working in South Huntington’s schools as a custodian while attending college. In 1988 he became a full-time custodian at Walt Whitman. Like so many, Mr. Shepard had a strong desire to serve his country and took a 2-year break to enlist in the Army reserves. After several years in the military, Mr. Shepard decided to go back to school to earn his master’s degree in education and become a teacher.

Mr. Shepard reflects that he benefited greatly from the encouragement he received from his teachers and coaches, who all helped him realize that he had a profound ability to connect with people and make a difference by bringing out the best in them. “I am truly grateful to my colleagues for their support and nomination as Silas Wood teacher of the year,” said Mr. Shepard, now in his twelfth year of teaching. “I am extremely honored and humbled to be awarded districtwide teacher of the year, considering the quality of the teachers with whom I work.”

 “Most importantly. I want to thank my parents, who instilled in me a sense of purpose and the belief that I can accomplish anything that I put my mind to,” continued Mr. Shepard. “Thank you for demanding nothing less than excellence. As a new teacher, I benefited greatly from my first department chairperson and my mentor, recently retired, Dr. Melvin Douglass.  Dr. Douglass required total professionalism, teaching me to have high expectations of my students as well as myself.”

“Teaching is truly a family affair, and it’s great to see all our teachers of the year surrounded by their families tonight,” said Schools Superintendent Dr. David Bennardo.  “I’m reminded of a quote that simply said, ‘They don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.’ And that is clearly evident tonight as we see how students have gone out of their way to put the face of their favorite teacher on a t-shirt, or our high school students jumping quickly to their feet for a teacher they know, or our primary students, whose faces light up when they hear the name of their teacher called. I think they have figured out the evaluation system, I really do. Congratulations to all these fine teachers, who make a difference and truly love what they do.”


OAKWOOD PRIMARY CENTER

Patrick Tighe- Teacher of the Year

“Mr. Tighe is a natural teacher.  Mr. Tighe produces exceptional and creative work with students.  I think that the American Poet, Robert Frost, had Mr. Tighe in mind when he stated, ’I am not a teacher, I am an awakener.’ Administrators, teachers, parents and children adore him!”                                                     

Eileen Kerrigan, Principal

COUNTRYWOOD PRIMARY CENTER
Laura Van Tassell- Teacher of the Year

“Laura loves what she does and it shows in the faces of the children she spends her time with each and every day.  She has taught them to never give up, always do their best, and take pride in their successes.  Laura advocates for the parents of the bilingual students so that they are provided with opportunities to be involved in their children’s educational development.”

Barbara Kenney, Principal

 

Birchwood Intermediate School
Lisa Crocco- Teacher of the Year

“Mrs. Crocco has encountered students whose emotional needs got in the way of their ability to focus in class.  Lisa will work with the children to teach them strategies to help them control their emotions and anxieties so they can focus on their academics.  She nurtures her students by providing a calm and structured environment that fosters growth socially, emotionally and academically.”                                         

 Anthony Ciccarelli, Principal

 
Maplewood Intermediate School
Dermot O’Connor- Teacher of the Year

“Dermot is a well-respected member of the Maplewood community.  Staff members seek his expertise on a number of topics and he is always willing and able to lend assistance.  Parents have commended him as well for his work with children and he is a much sought after teacher regarded as one of our District’s finest.”

Vito D’Elia, Principal


Stimson Middle School
Vasken Kazangjian- Teacher of the Year

“Mr. Kazandjian’s enthusiasm for teaching and the enjoyment he receives in students’ learning can be observed on a daily basis within his classroom and on the field.  His colleagues welcome his guidance and support in this informal capacity. Mr. Kazandjian is a teacher leader in every aspect. Mr. Kazandjian goes above and beyond the classroom in every way.”     

Faye Robins, Principal

 

Walt Whitman High School 
Robert Graziano- Teacher of the Year

In addition to being a team player and demonstrating an obvious dedication to carrying out district initiatives, he is an educator that cares passionately about every student in the building.  He is the teacher that students feel safe talking to, he is the teacher that always spends his lunch and prep time with students having meaningful conversations or being a guiding light.”    

Kathie Acker, Principal