May Is Teacher Appreciation Month: Thank You!

Teacher Appreciation
Teachers are tough with love.

To be honest, I don’t know if the entire month of May is devoted to appreciate teachers. But who cares? We should appreciate teachers every day and I’m not just saying that because I am a teacher. I’m a great teacher because of the teachers in my life.  Yes, I said great. If I don’t see myself as a great teacher, how can I get my students to see that too?

I’ve taken the best strategies and techniques from my former teachers and applied them to my years as a public school teacher. They may not have realized it but they’ve left a lasting impression in my heart and mind. These posts are for you. 

Elementary Years

I’m one of those weirdos who can name every teacher from Pre-k to 12th grade. But in honor of Teacher Appreciation Month, I’m going to highlight special moments which I feel have made me a great teacher. It starts with Bill Lupardo. He was my Pre-k teacher. Bill was like a second father. Attending Human Resources School (I’m aware it’s now called something else but I’ll stick to the name I know), Bill taught many kids living with physical disabilities. While I might not have clear memories of my year with him, I do remember the times he was there for me later on in life.

When I was in 5th grade I had to say good bye to everyone at my school because I was moving away to Miami, Florida. Bill came over with a farewell gift wrapped up in newspaper from the comic section. I loved it. Whenever I visit New York, I do my best to see Bill. How many people can say they still keep in touch with their Pre-K teacher?

Bill knew my personality. Nothing I did surprised him. He laughed everything off. He knew I was destined to be a diva. In the year book, there is a picture of him carrying me around the school. Later on, he showed me several large black and white photos he took of me in the classroom. I think I was one of his favorite. He made me feel safe.

So what did he teach me? I learned that it’s ok to be human with my students. It’s ok to nurture them and keep in contact with them long after they leave my classroom. It’s ok to make them feel safe around you. And isn’t that a great feeling?


Thank you, Bill Lupardo.

Gulfstream Elementary 

My first year in a public school with “regular” kids was at Gulfstream Elementary in Miami, Florida. Two teachers made a lasting impact in my life. Mr. Stout, the PE teacher, who awarded me at the end of the year with a trophy taller than me. The plaque read “Outstanding Achievement Award”. I couldn’t believe I got it. I thought Scott Smith was bound to get it. I was the only girl in a wheelchair but I did my best to participate in as many activities. I didn’t do it for the award or for him to notice me. I did it because my classmates asked me to hold the rope during jump rope and I thought it was funny to do jumping jacks without jumping. Mr. Stout didn’t single me out for being disabled or exclude me from being with the other students. I can’t even say I had a deep conversation with him. I was just a little girl in a new school outside with the other PE students. That’s inclusion!

What did I learn? I learned that I need to let my “special needs” students do everything that the others are doing to the best of their ability. Thank you, Mr. Stout.

The other teacher is Mr. Ron Arcaini. Ok, I’m going to just go right out and say it. He’s one of my favorite teachers ever! I do mean ever! I’m not just saying that because I finally found him on Facebook. Ask anyone who knows me and they will tell you that he was another great father figure in my life.

Mr. Arcaini did his best to make me feel comfortable in his class. I didn’t want to leave his class. I had him all day except to switch to Mrs. Cohen’s class for social studies. I actually learned things that I still use today. For example, he taught me how to make a sun dial out of just about anything. I used it later on to keep track of the time when I was at the pool and was expected to be home by a certain time. I also learned about football and betting. I won the Super Bowl contest that year by guessing the winner and the point spread. My prize was the novel, The Little Prince. He made learning enjoyable and cracked jokes but when he was mad, look out world!

That year was my first time ever to experience bullying from my very own besties! It was quite a shock for me. I could see that Mr. Arcaini was really angry at the girls but he kept his cool. I’m sure it was a struggle for him. Looking back now, I can remember times when Mr. Arcaini would make me feel extra special in front of the entire class. Perhaps it was a way to let the other students know that I was normal like them.

I didn’t know about his temper until one day, a softball accidentally hit me during PE by my friend, Dario. When Mr. Arcaini found out, I thought he was going to kill Dario. Don’t worry. He didn’t. But wow!

I learned that he cared about me.

He took care of business in his class. You acted out. You paid the price. Don’t know if he ever wrote students up for misbehavior but you’d have to be pretty stupid to mess with him.

What did I learn from Mr. Arcaini? I learned it’s ok to have fun in the classroom. It’s ok to get mad. It’s ok to make someone feel special. It’s ok to keep a student company when the student feels alone in school. It’s ok to be human. To this day, I still talk about Mr. Arcaini in class. I still picture him in his jeans with a can of soda writing on that chalkboard. He was the one good memory I have of sixth grade.

Thank you, Mr. Arcaini!

 Who left an impression in your elementary school years?