“He was one of the most beloved teachers in the school,” said Susan Weiss, whose children were in Novarro’s classes in the 1990s. “I started crying once I found out [he died].”
Amy Weiner had two sons who were students of Novarro’s, and her youngest, Shane, was in his fifth grade class last year. “He was really just an old-school, traditional teacher who really tried to make the light bulb go on in kids’ heads,” Weiner said. “He always tried to get through to them in other ways that other teachers fell short.”
She said that Shane wrote a letter to Novarro last June, comparing him to a farmer who planted the seeds for the children in the classroom. At the end of the year, Shane wrote, the students all blossomed into different plants.
At last year’s graduation, Bottari read the letter aloud. “Everybody was crying,” Weiner recounted. “It was beautiful.”
Weiner said she had spoken to Novarro as recently as two weeks ago, and he told her, “The way I knew I chose the right profession is when Shane wrote that letter and it was read at graduation. I knew I made the right choice.”
“He was one of these lifelong educators,” said Scott Eckers, who never had Novarro as a teacher, but knew him from student council. “His students were everything to him.”
Eckers, who is now a teacher and a professional singer, teaches Hebrew School at I.L. Paretz in East Meadow, which receives a lot of students from Barnum Woods. He recalled once singing a Yiddish folk song to his students, and to his shock, they recognized the song. He later learned that Novarro owned a copy of Eckers’s album and often played it to his students.
Shortly after, the two reconnected. “I couldn’t believe it — I was shocked,” Eckers said of Novarro. “Twenty years later, and he’s proud of this student he had 20 years ago. That meant a lot to me.”