Our teachers never really leave their students
Congratulations to the 2023 Governor’s Educators of the Year for the Hammonton School District: Maureen Anderson of Hammonton Middle School, Renee Clark of Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School, Stefanie Dooley of the Hammonton Early Childhood Education Center and Kelly Yeats of Hammonton High School.
Teaching is a difficult, rewarding job. I am sure there are many times when teachers look out at their classrooms filled with students and wonder if their teaching is making a difference, an impact, on the young people sitting in those seats.
I hope every teacher out there who wonders if they will be remembered will read this column and remember it. I was once a student sitting in the seats of the Hammonton School District. I attended school there from 1978 to 1991, from kindergarten to Hammonton High School.
There wasn’t an Early Childhood Education Center when I attended the public schools. I did go to elementary school in the almost-new Hammonton Elementary School (now the Warren E. Sooy Jr. Elementary School), walked the wide steps in the stairwells of the Hammonton Middle School (now St. Joseph Academy) and went to high school in what is now the Hammonton Middle School on Liberty Street.
I’m 49 years old now, and I can tell the teachers of today: The lessons you teach the students of today, the words you say to them and the interactions you have with them will always be remembered. You make a difference, every day—and your influence isn’t just felt now.
It’s felt decades from now.
When I see teachers being honored for the work they do, as the four teachers on our front page have been honored, it reminds me of all the teachers who influenced me when I was at the Hammonton School District. I’m a proud graduate of Hammonton. Many of the closest friends I have today were fellow students from the public school district. We were together in classes, on sports teams, and in extra-curricular activities like the Blue & White News Magazine, where I was editor in 1989-1990 and 1990-1991.
I enjoyed everything about school. I was a good student, but I also liked the social side—from hanging out after school to lunch to working on the school paper and playing on the freshman basketball team.
People don’t always realize the lives they touch. I know I’m not alone as a Hammonton student when I say that we had some of the best teachers—because they cared so much about their students. Looking back years later, it’s amazing how much I owe to the educators of the Hammonton School District. This week, when we’re honoring four educators of today, I thought it would be a good time to thank all the teachers I had at Hammonton.
As I said earlier, I hope all the teachers of today read this column—particularly the end of it—and understand that the students in your classrooms are listening, are learning and are being influenced by you each day. Decades from now, they will remember your name and what you taught them.
I remember all the teachers who influenced me (these are the ones who did so the most—it’s not a complete list of everyone who worked at the Hammonton School District at that time, just the teachers I either had or who left a deep impression on me). Maybe some of them were your teachers as well.
All of the following teachers contributed, in some way, to my education, and I extend my thanks to them: Mrs. Siler, Mrs. Mento, Mrs. Fields, Mrs. LaManna, Mrs. Fogletto, Mrs. Ruberton, Mrs. Hauser, Coach DeLaurentis, Mrs. Thompson, Mrs. Vancil, Mrs. Byrnes, Mrs. Apgood, Mr. Off, Mrs. Battle, Mr. White, Miss Fucetola, Mr. Lawrenson, Mrs. Brown, Mrs. Alvino, Mrs. Campanella, Mrs. Capizola, Mrs. Cappel, Miss Corbin, Coach DiDomenico, Mr. Fascetta, Ms. Fucetola, Mr. Galinas, Mr. Hackett, Ms. Penza, Mrs. Ranger, Mr. Sooy, Mr. Suhmann, Mrs. Allen, Mr. Wiessner, Mr. Winterbottom, Mr. Blasberg, Ms. Butler, Mrs. Cessato, Mrs. Connel, Mr. Curley, Mrs. DeMarco, Mr. Dursee, Coach Frantz, Mr. Galliera, Mrs. Guerere, Mr. Guerere, Mrs. Grasso, Mr. Groatman, Mr. Heston, Mr. Paul, Ms. Herrmann, Mrs. McPhee, Mr. Finizio, Mrs. Jones, Miss Frizano, Coach Inzillo, Coach LoSasso, Coach Lancetta, Coach DiGiovanni, Coach Folsom, Coach Sarno, Mrs. Longo, Mr. LeFevre, Mr. Lynn, Mrs. Newman, Mrs. Pache, Mr. Ponter, Mr. Quinty, Mrs. Robbins, Mr. Ryan, Mrs. Schuster, Mrs. Schipske, Mrs. Shelley, Mr. Sulmonetti, Mr. Strycula, ‘Doc’ Vitarelli and Steve Salvo.
Each of these people, in their own manner, shaped me into the person whom I am today, and I owe them a debt that can only be repaid by continuing to use what they taught me. I’m proud to call myself an alumnus of the Hammonton School District, and I’m glad I listened and learned when I was a student.
As you move through the grades in school, and then graduate out into the vastness your life, you leave your teachers.
But they never really leave you.
Congratulations to the 2023 Governor’s Educators of the Year, and to all teachers.
Your work makes a difference.
Take it from a former student.
Gabriel J. Donio is the publisher of The Hammonton Gazette.