SPARTA, NJ – Nearly everything is different this year so it is fitting that the annual recognition of the Top 10 would, in 2020 be the Top 11.
Each year the top 10 (or 11) students in the graduating class, as ranked by their grade point average, select a teacher they consider to have had the greatest impact on their lives as Spartans.
"It is an honor to be able to recognize these students for their amazing academic achievements at Sparta High School," Sparta High School principal Ronnie Spring said. Their extraordinary abilities go well beyond the classroom and they influence and inspire all those with whom they interact. Similarly, the teachers they are recognizing have and will continue to spread passion, inspire inquisition, and drive progress for our Sparta students and community for years to come."
While the dinner has been replaced by a video, it does not diminish the achievements of the students and the sentiment exchanged by student and teacher as they address each other. The exchange is sincere, sometimes funny and usually inspirational as impressions and anecdotes are revealed for all in attendance. In the video format, it was less emotional than in past year when the dinner was held in the media center but it was no less meaningful.
In a usual year, these students would have had their photos presented to the school, hanging in the entryway for the final weeks of school as well.
The Top 11 in alphabetical order, the teachers they selected and the school they will be attending in the fall:
- Michael Caruso, Mathematics Multivariable Calculus Sue Vnenchek, Stevens Institute of Technology
- Todd Cummings, English AP Literature and AP Psychology teacher John Hier, Lehigh University
- Cameron Ekeman, Technology teacher Robotics coach Mark Meola, Stony Brook University,
- Sebastian Gomez, Science AP Physics teacher Dana Miller, Columbia University,
- Ian Manske, Computer Science teacher Robotics coach Margaret Incantalupo, Rutgers Honor College,
- David Rubin, Science AP Biology teacher Ken Scognamiglio, Rutgers University, Salutatorian
- Michele Scagalione, Science Astronomy teacher, Casey Meehan, Clemson University,
- Joseph Shnyder, Science teacher Dana Miller, Princeton University,
- Anna Tartaglia, English teacher Kate Brennan, Penn State- Schreyer Honors College,
- Ande Wittenmeier, English teacher Kate Brennan, Syracuse University,
- Alan Yeung, History teacher Troy Fetherman, Georgia Institute of Technology, Valedictorian
One of the themes that emerged as the teachers spoke about the students is that they do not simply excel in one area but have a facility across disciplines and beyond the classroom. The teachers also frequently said students are not merely excellent academics but good people.
A common thread that become apparent when the students spoke of the teachers is that they feel a connection that goes beyond teacher and student; the term mentor was mentioned. The students said they taught them how think and solve, not what to think and do.
“This is a huge accomplishment and we are proud of everything you have done to date and can’t wait to see what you do in the future,” Sparta Board of Education president Kim Bragg said.
To the teachers, she said, “I want to thank you so much for your dedication to our students. It was not an easy year to be a teacher. I am so grateful for all of your work with our Sparta students.”
Bragg addressed the parents, “This is one of those ‘button popping’ nights and you have every reason to be proud. Congratulations from the board of education.”
"As an educational community, we are truly lucky to have such dedicated and passionate students and teachers," Spring said.