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Malverne parents, officials celebrate success at Maurice W. Downing School

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Members of the Malverne School District, along with parents and local elected officials, filled the St. Mary’s Council Knights of Columbus hall in Lynbrook as Maurice W. Downing Primary School held its annual Downing Night Out ceremony on March 22.

The event, which is hosted by the Downing School PTA, is a fundraiser at which community members enjoy an evening of dinner, dancing and raffles to support events at the school throughout the year, including Family Movie Night Under the Stars, Pumpkin Patch, Reindeer Games and Super Family Fun Night, among others. Last year was the group’s most successful campaign, raising more than $10,000.

“This is a labor of love,” said PTA Co-president Hayley Kelch. “This is a bunch of parents who care about the kids and community building. It’s just a truly awesome group of men and women who do everything from the heart.”

Camille Emeagwali, the PTA’s other co-president, added that the event galvanizes the community to support programs at the school. “It gives people the chance to raise additional funds and resources that can be used to provide more enrichment opportunities for our students,” Emeagwali said.

The fundraiser, which started almost 20 years ago, was originally known as Ladies’ Night Out. In recent years, the event has opened to all community members. “It’s an amazing event that has only grown since it began and they give their heart and soul to running a beautiful event,” said Downing School Principal Ed Tallon.

“I think that the PTA’s success from last year led in to what we’re seeing tonight,” said Mayor-elect Keith Corbett. “It’s an excellent time for the community to get together and come out to support our local school district.

Each year, the event also honors one of its teachers. This year’s Teacher of the Year, Malvernite Alina Janosel, has taught at Downing for 12 years as a kindergarten teacher, and 18 years overall. She was recognized for creating lessons that engaged students and STEM activities, which range from in-class arctic expeditions to testing out science lab concoctions by mixing up “love potions” for Valentine’s Day.

“She deserving of this because she works very hard for her students with all the hours spends after school, home and over the weekend,” said her husband, Michael.

The PTA played a slideshow for Janosel, in which people throughout the school community congratulated her. Moved to tears, Janosel thanked the PTA, the district’s Board of Ed, her family, and faculty and staff members for the honor. She said that becoming a teacher had been a dream of hers, and that to her, it is much more than just a job.

“I’m often asked why I became a teacher, and all I could really say is I honestly never thought of doing anything else,” Janosel said. “Teaching to me means making a difference for kids. I love their curiosity, their love of learning and how they’re eyes light up when they realize they can do something new. I really believe that teachers who love teaching teach children to love learning.”

State Assemblywoman Judy Griffin presented an award to Janosel for being named this year’s Teacher of the Year. She said that when teachers such as Janosel foster a love of learning to children at a young age, it carries throughout their lives.

“I’ve always enjoyed the way Malverne just celebrates their students, celebrates learning, celebrates their educators and their administrators,” Griffin said. “It was such a pleasure to see how much Mrs. Janosel is loved by her students.”

This year’s theme for Downing Night Out was the “Garden Party.” Proceeds raised funds for a state-of-the-art outdoor garden classroom at MWD. The PTA hopes to install fixtures, furniture and equipment that will transform the school garden space into fully equipped, all-season outdoor classroom that will allow numerous activities such as science, exploration, story time, art and club events. The outdoor garden is expected to be completed in 2020.