SPARTA, NJ – Recognizing the academic accomplishments of the highest ranked graduating seniors at Sparta High School, the Top Ten dinner was held in the school’s media center in June.
The annual dinner is one of the more intimate awards ceremonies held by the school. Each student chooses a teacher that has had a significant impact on their career as a student. Many tissues are needed, according to past attendees, though they also say there are good laughs as well.
Some of the students and teachers shared their thoughts.
History teacher Troy Fetherman was chosen by Emily Johnson. He said, “Attending the Top Ten dinner is a great honor for an educator. As teachers we spend our careers motivating students and igniting in them a desire to achieve. To have the opportunity to see the culmination of their journey through high school, and to be recognized by a student as having made a lasting impact on his or her life, is the highest honor.”
Salutatorian, Senior Class President, recipient of the Science department award and winner of this year’s Poetry Out Loud competition, Ben Insley chose English teacher Brent Rivers. Insley said, "I chose Mr. Rivers because he treats his students like he treats his poetry: every word is so important in understanding the full meaning of the poem." Insley received several scholarships at the Senior Academic Awards dinner and the NJAC Scholar Athlete award.
Rivers’ shared his thoughts about being chosen by Insley. “Ben's decision to select me made me feel very proud,” said Rivers. “I've taught him in a class and the fact that he would select me based solely on our experience with Poetry Out Loud reinforces the power of poetry and performance. I was also honored to be one of several representatives from the English department, which reminds me how lucky I am to work with such incredible and inspiring teachers every day.
Winner of the Senior English Award from the English department at Sparta High School, third ranked Emelia Silberstein chose English teacher John Hier. Silberstein said, “At some point in all of our high school careers, we went from learning about facts to learning how to learn. Nobody has helped me learn how to learn, and really appreciate learning, more than Mr. Hier."
“Being asked to speak at the Top Ten dinner on behalf of a student who you have come to know and respect, is one of one of the greatest honors a teacher could receive, particularly when that student is someone as gifted, charming, and as kind as Emmie Silberstein,” said Hier.
Science teacher Dana Miller was selected by Claire Mundi. Mundi is a member of the National Honor Society, the Russian World Language Honor Society and received National Merit Letters of Commendation and a scholarship from Saint Kateri Knights of Columbus.
“What an honor it was to be invited to the Top Ten Dinner as the guest of Claire Mundi,” said Miller. “The privilege of teaching Claire and her peers on a daily basis is awesome and I certainly don't take it for granted. To be able to spend an evening learning more about the well-rounded, humorous academics who have walked these hallways for the last four years and to share the evening with such inspiring faculty from a variety of departments is the icing on the cake.”
Melissa Terhune received the French World Language department award, the Pass it Along scholarship Hugh O’Brien Youth Leadership award. "Mrs. Barker changed my perspective on the importance of the arts in education and society, my outlook on how truly influential teachers are, and she helped me discover a piece of myself I never knew existed,” said Terhune.
“I was completely honored to represent Melissa Terhune at the Top Ten dinner,” said Jamie Barker, Sparta High School English teacher. “She is one of the most inspiring young ladies I have ever had the opportunity to teach, and the dinner validated every reason that I went into this profession in the first place.”
The recipient of the Music Department’s Service Award, the BC Calculus Mathematics Department award and the Tony Pompelio Award of Courage, Allie Sangalli chose Orchestra teacher Loni Bach. The two also performed a piano and chello duet for the attendees of the dinner.
“Allie is amazingly talented,” said Bach. “She is also an incredibly kind and generous person. Allie’s generosity extends beyond her friendships. Anytime we have a gig, Allie and her friends are there to volunteer to play- whether it’s at a nursing home, a fundraiser, or here tonight, she is always willing to share her time and talents. Allie, your courage, kindness and quiet confidence will be missed here at Sparta High School but I know your will bring these traits out into the world and it will be a better place because of you.
Winner of the James Abel Scholarship, Quincy Jones Award, the US Air Force Math and Science Award, Rohan Drummond chose Mathematics teacher Margaret Incantalupo.
"Mrs. Incantalupo is the kind of teacher that goes beyond instruction and truly inspires her students," said Drummond.
“The faculty and his classmates know Rohan is extremely intelligent, but he is much more than that. Rohan was a student in several of my computer programming courses,” said Incantalupo. “He excelled in the AP Computer Science class. I have had the opportunity to observe Rohan as a student in the classroom and as a member of the Sparta High School Track and Field team and the Sparta Marching Band. What I see is quiet leadership, a maturity beyond his years and the ability to grasp any subject in almost a seemingly effortless manner.”
Incantaloupo also shared a quote from a classmate: “Rohan is so motivating. Whenever someone says they could never do something, he always tells them they can. I said I could never run 5 miles and Rohan told me I definitely could. He is a very balanced person. I don’t know how he can be good at everything he does and still be in the top ten. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him put in less than 100 percent into anything he does.”
Eighth ranked Alex Curran received the field hockey and lacrosse booster club scholarships, chose Social Studies teacher Craig Merrill.
"What I love most about Merrill is that he is always there for students when they need a good laugh,” said Curran. “If he spots you in the hallway expect a knuckle punch and a "BABAAAM," if you are hungry he will give you a snack from his treasured stash and if you are having a bad day he readily has something hilarious to say to cheer you up. Merrill is the funniest, loudest and most supportive teacher I know and he adds so much life to both field hockey and school."
“Alex is an outstanding student and contributor to student life at Sparta High School. I had her as a freshman in Honors World History,” said Merrill in his address at the dinner.”To her dressing up to portray a character in history to writing a DBQ her work was un-paralleled. She is a charming, intelligent and a competitive individual with a determination to succeed in college and life.
“As for enthusiasm –Ralph Waldo Emerson once said—‘Nothing GREAT was ever accomplished without enthusiasm,’ I hope that some of my passion has been instilled in her. I have to say with sadness and joy one last shout-out ‘watch the back-side post!’
“She has displayed a conscientious and diligent approach to balancing both her studies and life’s activities. Alex and I spoke many times after class about a wide range of topics. She has a great interest in the academics and life. She is easy to talk with and has a pleasant personality. She has the interpersonal skills to communicate with both professionals and laypersons alike. Alex is also diverse enough to be able to relate to many different situations and experiences.”
Rebecca Senatore earned a National Merit Letter of Commendation, the Russian World Language Department award and was selected to attend New Jersey Scholars Program. Senatore chose English teacher Kate Brennan to attend the dinner with her.
“I was honored and humbled to have been invited to participate in such a profoundly classy event and thankful to have been a part of the journey that all of these incredible students have been on the past four years,” said Brennan. “My they have all grown so much.”
Kyle Gensheimer was ranked 10 in the class of 2016. He earned the Computer Science award from the Mathematics Department. Gensheimer asked German teacher Christiane Wessels to attend the dinner with him.
“It is such an honor to be selected by Kyle Gensheimer as the teacher who most influenced his life,” said Wessels. “I am very fortunate to be part of Kyle's educational journey at Sparta High School.”
“Witnessing the maturation of Emily, Ben, Rebecca and rest of the top ten gives me a sense of pride to know that the best Sparta has to offer are these exemplary young men and women,” said Fetherman.” The dinner itself is an intimate setting - the school board, administration, the selected teachers, parents, and students have the opportunity to reflect on the journey and accomplishments that have gotten them to this milestone in their lives.
“The students recognize that the Top Ten dinner is a great feat, but it also represents the beginning of another journey in their lives. As they attend some of the best colleges and universities in the nation they take the education, the teachers, and the community of Sparta with them.”
“I would just like to say that once again, we are extremely proud of all of our seniors, but especially those that have gone above and beyond in academics, citizenship and leadership,” said Principal Janet Ferraro. “It is those students who have been honored at our Top Ten Dinner and Senior Awards Ceremonies.”