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Elmont, Franklin Square teachers inspire their students at a distance


Every day, Elmont Memorial High School Principal Kevin Dougherty has been posting videos on Instagram and Twitter to keep his students updated on the Sewanhaka Central High School District’s efforts to continue education during the coronavirus pandemic. 

“It was kind of overnight we had to adapt to this new reality,” he explained, noting that he wanted to increase school spirit during these trying times, and reached out to the faculty to see if they wanted to get involved.

That is when Assistant Principal Dayna Sotirhos asked him whether they could put together a video of teachers speaking to their students “just to show how much we really do care,” Dougherty recounted.

Together, they took a week and a half splicing together photos and videos of Elmont Memorial High School staff telling their students how much they missed them. The end result was an almost eight-minute long video set to songs such as “Count on Me” by Bruno Mars and “Fight Song” by Rachel Platten. It started with a short clip of Dougherty’s children cheering on the Elmont students, and included photos of teachers with their families and pets. In the video, Sotirhos also said she “can’t wait ‘til we’re all together again.”

But the Elmont staff were not the only ones who made videos for their students. The Franklin Square Teachers’ Association also put together a video featuring photos of the staff holding hearts with inspirational messages. “We wanted to do something to inspire the kids,” President Annmarie Giarrizzo said of her and union representative Jancie Donaghy’s efforts, adding, “We figured this would be the best way to reach all our students.”

So, she sent out an email to all of the FSTA members asking if they would like to contribute a selfie of themselves holding a heart. Unfortunately, however, there were some technical difficulties — 50 of the emails went to Donaghy’s spam folder. “I had a funny feeling we were missing some,” Donaghy, who put together the video, said.

But after three attempts, they were successful and posted their video on Vimeo last week, which Giarrizzo said she thought came out “really cute.”

“We had fun with it, and we were very happy to do it for our kids because we miss them,” she said, adding that she is now thinking of creating individual videos for each building.

And at H. Frank Carey, the staff put together an almost 14-minute long video featuring teachers, coaches and even security guards sending inspirational messages to the school community, ending with Assistant Principal Christopher Carmody saying, “It’s the orange and bolack that binds us together,” and Principal Chris Fiore noting, “We’re all one big family, and remember — Carey never quits.”