Lester, a North Merrick native and a 1949 Mepham High School graduate, began teaching at Reinhard the day the school opened 50 years ago. He explained that the school and the community were constantly changing at the time, as new houses were built near the marshes of south Bellmore, where he had fished and shot skeet with his brother as a youngster. Before development really took hold, Lester could see the Jones Beach water tower from his fifth- and sixth-grade classrooms for several years.
Lester, the president of Bellmore’s retired teachers association, explained that he started his 28-year career in the district at the Winthrop Avenue School, but he fell in love with the St. Marks Avenue building. “I absolutely loved coming here,” he said. “I loved every day of teaching. With another day, there was another good deed to do.”
Barbara, who began teaching at Reinhard in 1969, said there was a congenial atmosphere at the school. She attributed that to Paul Royar, Reinhard’s first principal and a former phys. ed. teacher, who Barbara said was a coach through and through.
Royar would cook breakfast in the Reinhard kitchen, she noted. Faculty members would celebrate one another’s birthdays. Students would stay with their teachers after school, taking part in recreational sports or putting on plays. And parents, Barbara said, supported teachers and wanted what was best for their children.
“It was what I called the golden age of teaching,” she said. “The parents wanted the best for their kids in education, and they trusted the teachers to know to do the right thing.”
The Smiths returned to Reinhard for the anniversary celebration. After students danced to ’60s music and played "The Price is Right," Lester spoke to kindergartners and first-graders, answering questions like, “What was the building made of back then?” and “What was school like?” in 1963. He and his wife also attended a presentation put together by current faculty and staff.