BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - The Berkeley Heights Board of Education recently honored this year's district retirees with a ceremony.

"I've come to believe that each of us has a personal calling that's as unique as a fingerprint - and that the best way to succeed is to discover what you love and then find a way to offer it to others in the form of service, working hard, and also allowing the energy of the universe to lead you," said Superintendent Judith Rattner, who quoted Oprah Winfrey.

"The following retirees have a calling to truly impact the lives of children and they each civic in their special way," said Rattner. 

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The retirees honored: Joanne Tornambe, secretary at Hughes School; Karen Stollen, third grade teacher at Hughes School; Joe Hubert, Gov. Livingston coach and business administration teacher; Linda Deegan, special education teacher at Gov. Livingston;  Ann Watson, interpreter for hearing impaired at Gov. Livingston;  and Steven Petruzzelli, physical education teacher and coach at Gov. Livingston.

Rattner calculated these six retirees having served 184 years combined commitment to the children of Berkeley Heights and Mountainside. For that, "the world is a better place, and I want to truly thank all of them for the work they have done throughout the years," said Rattner.

Joanne Tornambe, secretary at Hughes School, was called to the podium while Rattner spoke of her background. Tornambe joined the district in 1989 and worked in the district's business office for seven years before transferring to Hughes School in 1996, where she spent the next 20 years. "Her name is synonymous with Hughes School," said Principal Jessica Nardi. "Working with four principals and hundred of teachers and staff members, all while helping and guiding a countless number of students and parents through their experience at the school."

Nardi continued, "Joanne was the heart and soul of the school for a very long time."

Tornambe considers herself fortunate for the opportunity to "work in the exceptional school district," adding, she was especially grateful for the two people she worked closest to, "Emily Long [Hughes School Nurse] always had my back and Jessica Nardi, who was the fourth principal I had the pleasure to work for -- they saved the best for last." She left telling the full gymnasium that she highly recommends retirement.

Hughes third grade teacher Karen Stollen was next to be honored. Stollen started her district career at Mountain Park School in 1992 and transferred to Hughes School one year later. Her enthusiasm is her trademark, said Rattner. "If Hughes School had a cheerleading squad, Karen would be captain," said Nardi. "She always has a positive attitude and a smile on her face. and she is exceptionally supportive to  school, students and programs. -- Her energy and kindness will be missed as we say farewell to Team Stollen this year."

Stollen said, "I have been very fortunate to work with an amazing group of teachers and support staff who are always such a big help whenever I transitioned to a new grade level or had technology issues. I will always be grateful for the opportunity I had to teach the children and the support I have received from the parents." She added, "When I do the clap out on Tuesday, June 20 -- I know it will be very emotional. I'm taking 25 years of very happy memories with me."

The last retiree to be honored for the evening was Joe Hubert, who worked 44 years in education. He began his district career as head football coach at Gov. Livingston Regional High School in 1986 and became a teacher of Business Administrator. 

His coaching history includes 17 years as head football coach and he also served as head and assistant coach of wrestling and track and field. "He coached numerous championship winning teams and individuals over the years -- always motivating and teaching with great passion," said Rattner.

"Joe Hubert is well known by all at GL," said Principal Robert Nixon, "a classic story teller -- the positive influence to the GL school community will be felt for many years to come," said Nixon.

Hubert, who has coached for 31 years and 97 seasons, has seen it all. "All that I have seen leaves me with enough satisfaction to say that my time spent here with the young men and women of Berkeley Heights and Mountainside was well spent." 

He will miss the daily interaction with the students, parents, teachers and administrators. "I've been going to school since '57 and I really think I like going to school. It took me a few months to recover," said Hubert. -- "I thank you for the opportunity to serve because I loved every minute of it." 

Retirees not present were: Linda Deegan, Special Education teacher at Gov. Livingston, 21 year career; Steven Petruzzelli, Health and Physical Education since 1997, as well as head basketball and assistant softball coach with 41 career years in education; and Ann Watson, an Interpreter for hard of hearing at Gov. Livingston with 26 years in education.

Rattner said in closing, "They are our friends and we will miss the daily interaction we have enjoyed for so many years."