Retirees, Educators of the Year Honored by School District
Three of the eight educators retiring from the Fort Lee School District in 2012 were recognized by their respective principals Monday, and the Fort Lee Board of Education also honored the 2012 “educators of the year” at each of the district’s six schools.
School officials Monday recognized the 2012 group of retirees from the Fort Lee School District at the school board’s regular business meeting.
Among the group of eight retiring teachers and support staff, three were in attendance at the meeting to be honored by the principal of their school: Art teacher at Fort Lee School No. 1 Barbara Elson, librarian at Fort Lee School No. 2 Arlene Rifkin and secretary at Lewis F. Cole Middle School Joann Tarabola.
As Elson stood at the front of the Fort Lee High School auditorium, School No. 1 principal Kristine Cecere talked about the Art teacher, who taught in the district since 1973, saying “Fort Lee was extremely lucky” that year when she joined the district.
“Throughout the years, Mrs. Elson has been consistently complimented as being supportive of all school activities, in addition to her impressive art lessons,” Cecere said, listing highlights like a 1983 performance of “Oliver Twist,” many “Circle of the Arts” programs, recognition by the governor in 1990 and a production of “The Wizard of Oz” that same year, in addition to “numerous Bergen mall displays.”
“She was always an educator who truly believe in lifelong learning to best meet the needs of her students, as seen in 1995 with a request to better understand computer applicability to an art program, as well as her many attendances with art educators of New Jersey,” Cecere said of Elson, adding that it was her “privilege” to know Elson best “through the painting of School No. 1’s Scarlett Knight.”
Cecere said that when a sixth-grader at the school raised the concern “that there was no representation of the school’s mascot anywhere to be seen in the school,” Elson took action “in her usual manner.”
“[She] had the student assemble a group of students and guided the painting process through her lunch period and after school, which led to an unveiling ceremony, where she highlighted the work of her students,” Cecere said. “That’s what so special about Mrs. Barbara Elson, a consummate educator, who always makes students feel very special.”
She added that the painting and a plaque now hang “proudly” on the second floor of the school’s Hoym Street building.
“Every child that will pass that painting will always remember that it not only represents bravery and honor, but it also represents dedication and passion for students,” Cecere said.
Fort Lee School No. 2 principal Marianella Martin said she’d known Rifkin, who worked in the district for 19 years, since her own days as a teacher at the school.
“And when you think of Arlene, you think of Dr. Seuss,” Martin said, adding that at the school’s recent retirement party, the teachers wore Dr. Seuss hats “in honor of Arlene.”
Martin said Rifkin taught “on many different levels, from Kindergarten all the way up to adjunct professor at Bergen Community College.”
She said that when Rifkin initially joined the school district in 1993, she divided her days between School No. 2 and School No. 4, where she was also the school librarian in the afternoon.
“When Fort Lee began its implementation of a computerized library program, [Rifkin] became the full-time librarian at School 2 and took the library through the installation of the electronic card catalog and the computerization of the library program,” Martin said. “While at School 2, she especially enjoyed seeing the children grow up, having them as students from Kindergarten all the way through sixth grade graduation.”
Martin related the story of a recent whole school assembly, at which she told the students that Rifkin was retiring, and the students gave her a standing ovation.
“It was really quite moving; it was very special for [Rifkin] and for the students,” Martin said.
Martin also said that when she asked all of the teachers to share with her their “most memorable moment as a teacher,” Rifkin’s was 9/11.
“As the people in the school building slowly realized what was happening, our children changed, their world changed, our whole world changed,” Martin said. “[Rifkin] feels that educators now have the responsibility of guiding and preparing children for an entirely new way of life with new needs, new fears and new responsibilities to ensure a good future for the next generation.”
Middle school principal Rosemary Giacomelli described Tarabola, who was also with the district for 19 years after nearly 10 years in Ridgefield Park, as “not just someone who supported me through my tenure at the middle school, but she supported the entire school.”
“She was the mother for all of our newbies that came to school, and she made sure that anyone that had anything to do, never left the building without what they needed in their hands—and especially me,” Giacomelli said. “Besides being the secretary, she was just a great person and a wonderful friend who enjoyed her job, was dedicated and so precise that everything should be right, that even an error in spelling would never leave the office … because she wanted everything to be just perfect.”
Giacomelli added, “[Tarabola’s] attitude and her faith toward the Fort Lee School District was second to none.”
“The best interests of everyone who participated or was part of the district were very important to her,” Giacomelli said.
All three principals who spoke Monday said those retiring from their school would be missed and remembered.
Also retiring from the Fort Lee School District in 2012 but not in attendance at the school board meeting Monday are the following people with their first year in the district in parentheses:
- Joyce Krieger, School Nurse at School No. 2 (1992)
- Lori Tauscher, Elementary teacher at School No. 2 (1998)
- Phyllis Citrin, Science teacher at Fort Lee High School (2002)
- Dennis Sayer, Science teacher at Fort Lee High School (2002)
- Donna Berkowitz, ESL teacher at the middle school (1988)
After the retirement tributes, Interim Superintendent of Schools Steven Engravalle introduced the 2012 Teacher/Educational Services Professionals Recognition Program honorees, whom he called “professional educators of the year as voted by their colleagues and staff.”
One-by-one, the honorees were called to the front of the auditorium to be recognized before the board meeting broke for a celebration and cake.
The 2012 Teacher/Educational Services Professionals Recognition Program honorees are as follows:
- Linda Casoria, Second Grade teacher at School No. 1
- Cheryl Zoll, First Grade teacher at School No. 2
- Heather Glickel-Maye, Fifth Grade collaborative teacher at School No. 3
- Kimberly Martinez, Third Grade teacher at School No. 4
- Howard Sidorsky, Special Education teacher at Lewis F. Cole
- Reina Sandouk, School Psychologist at the high school