The best of the best: My readers sound off on their favorite teachers

18 Jun

A big thank you to everyone who answered my recent call for names of great Webster teachers. I heard from ten different people, parents and students alike, who told me about 13 teachers in our district who have really touched their lives.

On this last day of the 2011-12 school year, I am pleased to post their comments here, and recognize some outstanding Webster educators. I’ll start with a shout-out to several teachers from Schlegel Road Elementary School.  Janet Sander wrote,

Leslie Ambler with her family (pulled this from her classroom website)

My vote goes to Don Russo, band teacher at Schlegel Road school. (He split his time teaching at both Schlegel and DeWitt.) He impressed me by not only being a very good teacher, but he seemed to have a way of getting to know your student as if that student was the only one he taught.

And her daughter Kristen wanted to recognize Schlegel first grade teacher Greg Pittman, because “He was funny.” Lori McCoy Sozio added,

Mrs. Leslie Ambler and Mrs. Marcy Dungey are both exceptional at Schlegel Road. They go above and beyond every single day. My children have been so fortunate to be educated by two amazing teachers!!!

Klem North Elementary’s name also popped up a couple of times in my emails. The first was from The Myers family, who wrote,

Pamela Smith

I would like to submit Mrs. Pamela Smith, a third grade teacher at Klem North.  Not only has she been an excellentteacher academically, but the rapport she has developed with the students is something special.  Her interactions with our daughter have helped to make this a truly exceptional year, and she should be recognized for that excellence.

Also from Klem North, Christina Jones Dowling wrote,

Mary Vorrasi and Kathleen Lawson from Klem North go above and beyond their teacher duties to make every kid feel loved and supported.

…and Brenna McKane “voted” for Mrs. Nancy Ann  Nesbitt, her fifth grade teacher at Klem North, because she was “nice and fun.”

Kathy Lawson

Chris Beh wrote in to recognize State Road Elementary teacher Diane McCaferty (formerly Miss Horn), saying,

Our son Brendan had Miss Horn as his first grade teacher at State Road.  She was wonderful in many ways…compassionate, caring, firm and an exceptional reading teacher.  He flourished under her teaching.

Jen Sander told me about three teachers who made a difference in her life:

Stephanie Manning at Willink Middle School was the sweetest teacher I’ve ever had. I was picked on a lot in middle school and Mrs. Manning was always a friendly face. I always knew that if I needed a teacher to talk to, her door was always open.

Jen Sander with Mrs. Manning in 2002

 Steve Landgren (music teacher at Webster Thomas High School): I don’t think I ever saw Mr. Landgren without a smile on his face. He’s extremely passionate about teaching; He loves music and he makes his students love it with him. Band is one of this things I miss most from high school. I was sad to hear he was retiring this year, but if anyone deserves it, it’s him. The Thomas Music Department won’t be the same without him.

Greg Ahlquist (social studies teacher at Thomas): Not a shock, since I’ve never met any student who didn’t like Mr. Ahlquist’s class. Mr. Ahlquist is also extremely passionate about his work. His enthusiasm during his lessons captivates his students… Even if you didn’t like what he was teaching you’d still find yourself being drawn in to his lectures.

Greg Ahlquist

Jen’s brother Ryan also recognized Ahlquist, from whom he took AP World History this year, saying “Mr. Ahlquist has the ability to cover all the curriculum and then some, and still make it fun.”

Ryan also mentioned another Webster Thomas teacher, but I have left that name for last, since this particular teacher got two mentions, from two separate readers. That would Mike Mitchell, who teaches Living Environment at Webster Thomas.

Ryan described Mitchell as “just a goofball,” adding that “he makes classes fun but his students know when it’s time to get serious.”

I received this second email about Mitchell just yesterday, from Webster Thomas senior Katie Epner:

Mike Mitchell

Michael Mitchell is a sophomore year biology teacher at Webster Thomas. It’s been two years since he has taught me, but like many other of his past students, I am still in his classroom a majority of the day. He is more than a teacher. He is a true friend to so many. His room is a Mecca calling to any student, familiar to him or not, as a safe get-away from the droning halls of the school. Speaking personally, Mr. Mitchell (who I, along with everyone else, refer to as ‘Mitchell’) has been more than a teacher. Our relationship began freshman year when my sophomore friend had him as a teacher and hung around his room during our lunch blocks. Mr. Mitchell has an incredible ability of connecting with students, and in high school, a friendship that develops with him is the best thing to have.

As I graduate this weekend, I will walk across the stage and the most vivid memory I will be walking on from is my time spent during my lone blocks in room 32. Every yearbook has been inscribed with great memories and messages from each of us, but this year was different. I am very emotional to move on from this friendship, as I have befriended many upperclassmen who have moved on, Mr. Mitchell has always been there. Signing his yearbook for the last time, I was dodging the book from tears…

…he is so deserving of this recognition for being the most personable and welcoming faculty member at Webster Thomas.

Kudos to all the great Webster Central School District teachers we have mentioned here for truly making a difference in the lives of your students.  I know there are a lot more great teachers out there. In my job as a teaching assistant I see them every day, and there are too many for just one blog.

So to all of out there who have dedicated your lives to guiding our children, who open your hearts every day while you open their minds, we say


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