FAIR LAWN, NJ - Starting her 50th year of teaching, Westmoreland Elementary School teacher Yvonne Visocky has affected thousands of young minds and although students--and the profession of teaching--have changed, her love for teaching has not.
Visocky has been teaching fifth grade in the same school, and in the same classroom, Room 33, for 28 years. Add to that 21 years teaching sixth grade, and that makes her the longest serving teacher in the Fair Lawn School District.
When you consider that 4.2 years is the median number of years that wage and salary workers have been with their current employer, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Visocky’s tenure is even more striking.
For Visocky, teaching is not a job, it’s her passion. “I love the long-range effects of teaching, of knowing how the students matured, where they ended up and what is yet to come,” she said.
Many alumni, who are still in touch with her or visit year-after-year, describe her as "inspirational, dedicated beyond the classroom" and affectionately, "strict."
Dr. Joe “Joey” Wolenski, a fifth-grade student in Visocky’s 1970-71 class, has remained in contact for nearly 50 years, mostly through holiday correspondence. “Yvonne was more than just a teacher, she was a role model of such high virtue, she approximates sainthood,” said Wolenski, a senior lecturer and research scientist at Yale University. “I know I speak for hundreds of former students when I say that she was truly a guiding light that provided a pathway to success for those willing to listen.”
“I love her, she is so incredible,” said Dawn Hoefler, a Fair Lawn resident and former sixth-grade student of Visocky’s 1988-89 class. Visocky also taught Hoefler’s three children and her younger sister, Carolyn. “She prepares the students for middle school, always goes above and beyond, and attends the kids’ events all over town. She is so dedicated to the families and students.”
At a young age, Visocky knew she wanted to be a teacher. At just three years old, her father, a teacher and administrator, would bring Visocky to school with him during off-hours. She fondly recalls how school always provided stability throughout her life.
“I was determined, destined and committed to return the stability and security that school provided to me to my students,” Visocky said. The biggest change she has seen during her teaching career is the services provided to students beyond academics. “Now, schools partner with families on nutrition, medical, pre- and postschool child care, occupational and physical therapy, mental health, speech and music. The list goes on,” she said.
Her students over the years have become more worldly, whether it’s by travel or through technology. She says she’s adapted to learning the technology, but it has not been easy. When Visocky started teaching in 1969, computers had not entered the marketplace.
Westmoreland Principal Christy Dell’Aglio says Visocky is the “epitome of a life-long learner” and pursues professional development opportunities to keep up-to-date on technology. “Yvonne has proudly launched Google Classroom with her students and has taken the initiative to learn and implement many data tracking platforms such as ConnectEd and NewsEla to enhance and guide learning in her classroom,” said Principal Dell’Aglio, who has worked with Visocky for 8 years.
“As a teacher, you always hope to be a positive influence, make a good impression or a difference in a student’s life. It is remarkable to think what an impact she has made on her students over a 50-year span,” Superintendent Nick Norcia said.
She graduated from William Paterson University, earning a master's degree in Elementary Language Arts, and 30 additional hours in English Literature Studies from there, as well. She holds a certificate in K-12 English.
Not surprisingly, she has won Teacher of the Year three times at Westmoreland. In her free time, she enjoys gardening, sewing and attending classic car shows. “I do receive daily enjoyment from teaching a variety of content to students,” said Visocky, “What else could affect so many lives?”