The New York State Council for the Social Studies annually names one New York elementary school teacher as the state’s “Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year.” This year the council awarded the honor to Merrick native and Calhoun High School graduate Janine Sena-Saputo.
Sena-Saputo, who now resides in Sound Beach, teaches a classroom of fifth-graders at Thomas J. Lahey Elementary School in Greenlawn. Currently in her 10th year as a classroom teacher, she previously worked as a substitute teacher in North Merrick’s elementary schools.
“Social studies is my favorite,” Sena-Saputo said of the many subjects she teaches. “I’m completely obsessed with teaching history to kids. I like to make it come to life.”
Sena-Saputo first won the Long Island Council for the Social Studies’ “Margaret Simon Award for Excellence in Elementary Social Studies Education” in 2011-12 after Lahey School Principal Florence Tuzzi nominated her for the award. She then moved on to the New York State Council for the Social Studies’ conference in late February and early March this year at the Hilton Westchester in Rye Brook, N.Y., at which she received the “Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year” award. As such, she is in the running to receive the National Council for the Social Studies’ “Outstanding Social Studies Teacher of the Year” award at the council’s conference in St. Louis in November.
Sena-Saputo comes from a family that is closely associated with public education. Her mother is a secretary at Fayette Elementary School in North Merrick, her father was an associate principal at Kennedy High School in Plainview before his retirement, and her brother is an art teacher at Lynbrook High School.
She did not always answer the family calling. After earning her bachelor’s degree in advertising and marketing communications from the Fashion Institute of Technology, Sena-Saputo worked for a time for Liz Claiborne and Target.
“After 9/11, I decided to try my true passion, which is teaching,” Sena-Saputo said. She returned to school to earn her master’s in education from Adelphi University and an administrative certificate from the C.W. Post campus at Long Island University.