When graduating Glen Cove High School senior Haley Gielbeda heard that social studies teacher Angela Hall might be moved to Finley Middle School next year, she knew she had to do something.
Ever since Gielbeda took Hall’s global studies class as a freshman, she knew she was a special teacher. When she learned of Hall’s potential relocation, Gielbeda took to the internet and social media to attempt to save her position. On June 5, Gielbeda created a petition on change.org in the hope of demonstrating to the district administration how many people want Hall to stay at the high school. The petition surpassed its original goal of 500 signatures within 24 hours, and at press time the total was climbing to over 1,100.
“I think it just really shows the kind of teacher she is,” Gielbeda said. “She deserves the absolute world, and I have no words about how overjoyed I am that [the petition has] been successful.”
Hall, Gielbeda said, has a unique approach to teaching. She appreciated everything Hall did in the classroom, but was even more impressed by how she conducted extra help sessions. Instead of simply providing students with the information they needed to succeed in class, Gielbeda said, Hall created a specific plan for each student, accounting for their individual needs and abilities.
“She’s had that position for so long, and she deserves it. She does so much for that school,” Gielbeda said, explaining that Hall is a regular presence at extracurricular events, taking part in the school’s Martin Luther King Day celebration and chaperoning field trips and the senior prom. “Her job doesn’t end in the classroom.”
Julia Oh, who graduated from GCHS in 2011, spoke at a Board of Education meeting on June 19, urging the administration to keep Hall in the high school. She also asked that social studies teacher Dan Yeh, whom the administration is considering moving to the middle school, stay at GCHS as well.
Hall and Yeh declined to comment on their potential transfers. Yeh said they are both “dedicated professionals who love their students and teaching at the high school.”
Oh took classes with Hall and Yeh as a freshman and sophomore. The teachers care about their students inside and outside the classroom, she said, and are also willing to work with them on a personal level. This is especially important for high schoolers, Oh said, who are going through a transformative period in their lives, which can be emotionally taxing.
Oh said she visits the high school near the end of every school year to catch up with Hall and Yeh, and to tell them what she has been up to since they last saw one another. The conversations are intimate, Oh said, similar to sharing new achievements with an older family member, and she said she wanted future high school students to have a chance to develop those kinds of relationships with their teachers.
“Everybody knows them, everybody loves them,” she said, “and it’s really a tragedy and a disservice to the high school population if they get moved down.”
Lynn James and her son Elijah, who will be a senior at GCHS in the fall, also spoke at the meeting. James said that five of her children either attend or have graduated from the school, and four have taken classes taught by Hall or Yeh. After the meeting, she said that it is important for students to have teachers like them in high school.
Their teaching style, James said, is like “an art form.” It is difficult, she added, for teachers to get through to students without forming relationships with them, something that Hall and Yeh both do masterfully.
Elijah James, who took Hall’s freshman global history class, praised her for her kind and motivational teaching method. He said he formed such a strong relationship with Hall that he still visits her classroom just to chat whenever he has spare time during the school day. He was devastated, he said, when he learned of Hall’s potential relocation, because he, too, believes she is perfect for the high school.
“It isn’t often you get a teacher like that,” Elijah said, “and I know it’s really important for high schoolers, in particular, to have teachers like that, because it’s a crazy four years.”
District Superintendent Dr. Maria Rianna said only that teacher transfers are a personnel issue, and that teachers are moved around within the district every year.