Ten graduating Baldwin High School seniors tipped their hats to their favorite teachers and reminisced about their fondest memories of their academic careers last week.
Dozens of people, including students, teachers, administrators and parents, gathered at the high school on May 29 for the district’s annual In Recognition of Excellence Dinner.
“The single most amazing thing that I think we do is create connections between our teachers, our administrators, our students and our parents,” said Dr. Shari Camhi, the Baldwin Schools superintendent.
Camhi and Board of Education President Annie Doresca introduced the 10 students — two of whom couldn’t make it. The seniors spoke about the teachers who have had the greatest impact on them on their academic journeys in the district. Students recognized elementary, middle school and high school teachers, and shared stories both serious and humorous.
“It really is a celebration of the relationships and the influence that the adults in our system have on the young people in our system, because that’s what lasts forever,” Camhi said, adding that whether they are teachers, administrators, food service workers, custodians, clerical workers, secretaries or assistants, they all work to make students feel safe, important, needed and loved.
Baldwin senior Nathanael Holmes, who was homeschooled by his mother in his early years and forewent an elementary school teacher, thanked Sara Gonzalez, a middle school teacher, and Cristina Biancaniello, a high school teacher.
“I feel like they brought out the best in me,” he told the crowd. “She helped me transition from my home-school environment to the Baldwin School District,” Holmes said of Gonzalez. “Her positivity and encouragement brightened my days during this transition. She has helped me become a better person because of her kindness throughout the years. I will never forget your influence on me.”
Senior Kayla Gay, who couldn’t attend the event, recognized Laura Cardella, a Meadow Elementary School teacher; Felice Brandner, a middle school teacher; and Amy Slif, a social worker. Doresca spoke on behalf of Gay, who said she learned important skills and life lessons from the people whom she honored.
Weedline Limas recognized Kathy Lymberatos, Anthony Biscardi and Donna Prager — all high school teachers — because she transferred to Baldwin High School after her elementary and middle school years. Limas said these teachers helped her adjust to a new environment and transition smoothly.
Nia Mack thanked Diane Harris, a Brookside Elementary School teacher; Ed Cricchio, a middle school teacher; and Kristen Parisi, a guidance counselor. Mack recalled the advice that she was given and how it helped her understand her worth.
“Without you, I probably would have never survived my last few years of high school,” she told Parisi, thanking her for listening to her problems every week.
Natalie McParland thanked Beth Stein and Cristina Biancaniello, both teachers for the deaf and hard of hearing; and Kelley Snow, a high school teacher. McParland shared humorous anecdotes about her favorite teachers, and the crowd laughed with her.
Rafael Mejia Chevez thanked Bobbi-Jo DiFabio, Ruth Maza-Crespo and Doris Amaya — all high school teachers — because he moved to Baldwin during his freshman year.
“You were a great help when I transitioned to high school and when I moved into the school district,” Mejia Chevez told Maza-Crespo. “I’m happy to say that you were the first adult that I ever came out to, even though you never realized that, because I said it so calmly.”
Nathalie Membreno, who couldn’t be there, recognized Lisa Traum, a Meadow Elementary School teacher; Megan Ferguson-Koci, a middle school teacher; and Alisa Russo, a high school teacher. James Rohrs thanked Sheri Snow, an elementary school teacher; Tim Maher, Baldwin Middle School principal; William McDonough, a high school teacher; and Peter Lang, a high school teacher.
Brian Scannell thanked Plaza Elementary School teacher Michele Kourie; Jennifer Debler, a middle school teacher; and Anita Zucker, a high school teacher. And Christian Vera thanked Kelly Beck, a Plaza Elementary School teacher; Ingrid Bacca, a middle school teacher; and Timothy Clancy, a guidance counselor and lacrosse coach.
All of the students who honored their teachers reflected on the lessons they learned and expressed gratitude for the memories they made during their years in the Baldwin School District.
“As our seniors move on . . . we are saddened to see all of them go, but we are really happy for [them], who get to go into the next phase of life, which I promise all of you is absolutely awesome,” Camhi said. “You learn a lot of things along the way. Kindergarten through grade 12 is 13 years of a lot of learning, but the thing that people leave with, and that lasts forever and a day, are the relationships and the friendships that have been formed in those 13 years.”