I’ve heard it said, “For Good” from Wicked goes, That people come into our lives for a reason. And so it is with teachers who inspire and change the direction of their students’ lives. And for the students who return the favor.
When I first met Lucy Lee, she was showing sophomore Jeremy Knopf, a student in her Chinese Language class, to write Happy New Year in Chinese characters. The photograph of the two together has appeared in a number of online and print publications, first honoring Mrs. Lee as the high school’s Teacher of the Year, then again when she received the additional honor as Essex County’s Teacher of the Year.
Like Jeremy, there were a lot of students at a Board of Education meeting a few months back excited to share with their teachers the formal recognition of their selection as Teachers of the Year. The meeting left an impression on Jeremy. On June 3, he was sworn in as the new student representative to give a voice for students on some of the important educational issues facing our schools.
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
Stephen Oremus, a Tony winner and Livingston High School graduate, was the musical director for Wicked when it opened on Broadway. He gives credit for his success to his music teacher growing up, Livingston’s Paul Stefany, who himself has written dozens of songs – mostly composed to be sung by his students.
Mr. Stefany said among his favorite moments of his 38-year career was watching Oremus conduct Wicked and a kindergartener enthusiastically hugging him -- all on the same day.
As the school year winds down to its final days, it seems somehow fitting that all these lives touched were celebrated with equal enthusiasm on a single day.
Jeremy’s first meeting as a student rep and Mr. Stefany’s memory as he retires were shared just a few hours after this year’s Teachers of the Year were once again applauded as innovators and leaders for representing Livingston Public Schools mission “to empower all to learn, create, contribute and grow.”
The high school’s Chamber Singers and Notations serenaded the teachers -- Julie Bachrach, Burnet Hill; Angela Selnick, Collins; Jeannie Murray-Connell, Harrison; Rachel Ehudin, Hillside; David D’Addozio, Mt. Pleasant Elementary; Allison Winka, Riker Hill; Laura Gordon, Mt. Pleasant Middle School; Dan Traglia, Heritage; and Lucy Lee of Livingston High School.
The song they chose? It couldn’t have been more appropriate.
But because I knew you
I have been changed for good
It’s not just the students whose lives have been enriched.
In three decades, Dan Fox has planted many of the trees that shade Livingston’s schools. He says he has enjoyed watching them grow and develop, much like the generations of children he has seen come and go.
“What other job pays you such great rewards like going into a classroom to do a repair, and when leaving the class the teacher says, 'Let’s thank Mr. Fox' and the 25 children say, 'Thank you Mr. Fox.'
“That’s a feeling,” Fox says, “I will always remember.”
Marilyn Joyce Lehren is the Manager of Communications for Livingston Public Schools.