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NSCSD Shining Stars

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to unexpected challenges to both teaching and learning but we know that many of our students and teachers are thriving in this environment. We also know other staff are going above and beyond to keep students and families safe and informed.

We'd love to hear (and share) the inspirational stories you have so we can keep the positive vibes going. If you'd like to recognize a North Syracuse Central School District student, employee or even a volunteer, please complete a short online form giving us some basic information.

Many thanks to everyone who submitted nominations for shining stars during the 2020-2021 school year! We're excited to have received so many entries and are working to put together the stories we have already gotten. We will no longer be accepting nominations for the 2020-2021 school year but will continue this popular feature next school year. If you submitted a nomination, keep checking to see your featured star! 


April 16 Shining Star: Meghan Cumber, North Syracuse Junior High School 8th Grade Student
This week’s Shining Star is North Syracuse Junior High School 8th Grade Student Meghan Cumber.

Although Meghan is new to North Syracuse Junior High School, she has jumped right in and gotten involved with her school community and is already making an impact. Meghan has been named one of her school’s Students of the Month for April and will be inducted into the National Junior Honor Society this spring.

Mrs. MacDerment, a music and band teacher at North Syracuse Junior High School, who recommended Meghan for Student of the Month, was happy to support Meghan’s Shining Star nomination. Mrs. MacDerment wrote, “Meghan is a very polite, respectful, responsible student who attends her weekly clarinet lessons and works hard during band rehearsals.  She is a talented musician and a pleasure to have in class.”

In the nomination for Shining Star nomination though, Meghan’s nominator focused on her service rather than academics writing, “Meghan bakes all natural dog treats and uses a portion of her sales to buy supplies for local dog shelters. She has used her profits to buy dog food, bleach, cat litter, toys, dog coats, leashes and collars for a local shelter and dog rescue.”

In learning that Meghan would be recognized as a Shining Star, her mom, Tyra Cumber, commented on Meghan’s “pet” project crediting their rescue dog, Lola, as the inspiration.
“Over quarantine last spring, Meghan developed a love for baking. In April, our rescue dog, Lola, turned 1. Meghan decided to bake treats for [her] birthday,” Tyra said. “She researched the healthiest ingredients and developed her own recipe. [The treats] were a hit with Lola and the neighborhood dogs, so she decided to sell her treats and use a portion of the profits to help shelters like the one Lola came from.”

Another one of Meghan’s North Syracuse Junior High School teachers, Kathleen Dziados, also expressed her support for Meghan’s recognition. She said, “Meghan is a natural leader. She is very diligent and resourceful in the classroom. She has excelled in this pandemic environment in her studies and is always willing to help her classmates.  She is an absolute pleasure to have in class and is involved in sports as well and still maintains her high 90's average. We look forward to more great things from Meghan.”

Meghan also serves on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Council and recently had the chance to speak with Superintendent Bowles prior to their group’s meeting. After speaking with the new student, Superintendent Bowles expressed his admiration for Meghan saying, “It was wonderful talking to Meghan and hearing about her school life and the activities she’s involved with. She is an outgoing and bright young lady and a great addition to our student council.”  

Congratulations Meghan and keep up the great work!

April 9 Shining Star: Amanda Menikheim-Morey, North Syracuse Early Education Program Teacher
This week’s Shining Star is Amanda Menikheim-Morey, a preschool special education teacher with the North Syracuse Early Education Program (NSEEP) at Main Street.

Amanda, who is herself a graduate of the North Syracuse Central School District, says she knew from an early age that she wanted to be an early education teacher. She gives credit for that to her first grade teacher at Smith Road Elementary School, Ellen Galgano.

Amanda has always loved working with children and says that their energy and enthusiasm is what makes her job so meaningful. “My favorite thing about my job is the KIDS. When children are young and starting to learn, they are such willing participants in the education process! I learn something new every single day,” she said.

Amanda is new to the NSEEP this year but has already made an impact. She was nominated for Shining Star recognition by Lynda Naples, the parent of one of her students. In her nomination, Lynda wrote, “Amanda has gone above and beyond to rally her team members, special population of students, parents, and support staff during the transitional time of remote learning. She calls out each and every student, captivates their attention, meets them where they are at, plays to their strengths and makes them feel special and included as a part of the virtual classroom. We truly appreciate Amanda’s efforts and would like to thank her for all she does, we are lucky to have her.”

Before coming to the North Syracuse Central School District, Amanda says that she worked the majority of her career in a neighboring county but when she had the opportunity to come to the NSCSD, she jumped at the chance. “When I was given the opportunity to teach at the NSCSD, where my two young children would be starting their educational careers, I knew that my move was the right one,” Amanda said. “I was hired at Cicero Elementary and loved my position and colleagues. Now [NSEEP] has become my new home and I have found my passion once again at the preschool level.”  

NSEEP Principal Dawn Hussein is also pleased with Amanda’s transition to preschool education. She said, “Amanda has done a phenomenal job meeting the needs of our students! I have seen her in action, both in the classroom and via zoom. Her lessons are engaging and purposeful, and her passion for teaching is evident in all she does. We are fortunate to have her as a teacher in our district!”

Congratulations to Amanda Menikheim-Morey and thank you for your exceptional care of the District’s youngest learners!

March 26 Shining Stars: Lakeshore Road Elementary School Second Grade Student Paul Lucason and his Classmates
This week’s Shining Star may be the District’s youngest nominee but his positive influence is tremendous. Paul Lucason is a second grade student in Meghan Krupa’s class at Lakeshore Road Elementary School. When learning that Paul had been nominated for Shining Star recognition, his teacher, Meghan Krupa, admits that she actually teared up. She said, “Paul is one of the most hard-working, happiest and modest students I’ve ever had. His love of learning inspires his peers on a daily basis.”

Paul’s mom, Theresa Lucason, is grateful that her son has maintained his positivity and ‘can-do’ attitude throughout the pandemic. She said, “Paul has always been a caring kid and a hard-working student, however this year, he has truly gone above and beyond our expectations. We all knew things were going to be different this year but he has not once complained about any of the changes. He wakes up on virtual days, eats breakfast, and is ready to do schoolwork. On in-school days, he puts on his mask and helps his younger sister Emily get on the bus without hesitation.”

Throughout this school year in this newsletter feature, we have learned about the “extraordinary” things staff and students are doing for each other. Many of those “extraordinary” things though, are simply acts of kindness. Paul’s mom points out that Paul’s everyday actions help him stand out. Theresa said, “We did not expect how helpful and considerate he has become. He has excelled in reading, math and science, even asking if he could make up the missed school work after the snow day. He reads to his sister, pausing at her sight words so she can read them too. Paul continues to have a positive attitude about school; he loves his teachers and looks forward to seeing all of his friends. He, like so many other students, has shown us adults how truly adaptive and resilient kids can be.”

Lakeshore Road Elementary School Principal Tina Chmielewski agrees that students should be commended for their efforts. “I know so many students have really persevered demonstrating bravery, resilience, and cooperation.  We had no idea what this year would bring, but I believe Paul and all our students should be commended,” Chmielewski said. “Congratulations to Paul for always having a positive attitude during this unique year! My students and teachers amaze me every day with the fact they continue to maintain a positive outlook with so many challenges."

Congratulations to Paul Lucason and all students for your extraordinary efforts this year. As Paul’s mom says, “Keep smiling, being kind, telling jokes and being awesome!”

March 19 Shining Stars: Steve Sagnella, Head Custodian at KWS Bear Road Elementary School and the NSCSD Custodial Staff
This week’s Shining Star is Steve Sagnella, the head custodian at KWS Bear Road Elementary School. Steve has held his current post for the past twelve years, but his work history with the District extends almost two decades.

Steve is a proud graduate of the Cicero-North Syracuse High School Class of 1987 and has been a part of the NSCSD community his whole life, with his father also attending NSCSD schools. Steve says that that best thing about working for the District and having a long history here is knowing the teachers and staff as well as his own family. Because of this, Steve says that he would do anything to help every single person at his school.

Steve lives by the Golden Rule, the principle of treating others as you want to be treated and that concept is apparent to others. Steve’s boss, Matt Erwin, the District’s Director of Facilities praised Steve’s work ethic saying, “Through the challenges of the past year, Steve stands out as a dedicated and trusted team leader. Steve never asks more of his crew than he is willing to give himself and despite the additional burdens of [school] renovations and COVID-19, Steve has kept the morale of his team at a high level, supporting the needs of students and faculty to the fullest extent.”

Steve was nominated for Shining Star recognition by Stephanie Hunter, one of the custodial workers on Steve’s team at KWS Bear Road. In her nomination, Stephanie wrote, “There are many reasons why I want to recognize [Steve] but the biggest one is how much he truly cares about everyone and anyone that enters the school.”  

She added, “He’s always going above and beyond for the staff and students, even for his employees. Making sure that it’s clean and safe. He has been dealing with a lot of the construction mess so he’s always busy making sure that the appearance of the building is always looking its best.”

Steve is equally appreciative of his coworkers saying, “Ken, Brian, and Stephanie help me in so many ways to keep this place going. They are hard workers. We all try and do the right thing for Bear Road and the District.”

As schools prepare to bring additional students back for more in-person learning, Steve and all the District’s custodial staff will continue to play a critical role. Thank you to all of these dedicated employees who work hard every day to ensure that all NSCSD buildings are safe and healthy for students and staff!

March 12 Shining Star: Fully Remote Second Grade Teacher Nicole McCarthy
This week’s Shining Star is Nicole McCarthy, a fully remote 2nd Grade teacher with students from four separate elementary schools: Allen Road Elementary School, KWS Bear Road Elementary School, Cicero Elementary School and Roxboro Road Elementary School. While Nicole has been a part of the North Syracuse Central School District for nine years, with this being her sixth at Allen Road Elementary School, she admits that this year has not been typical.
Nicole, along with other teachers in her situation, is challenged with bringing together groups of students from different schools. “It has been challenging having a very large class size as well as students from different buildings but we are trying our best to build a classroom community where the students can have fun and learn,” Nicole said.

Without a doubt, her students’ parents feel that Nicole is succeeding. Nicole was nominated for Shining Star recognition by Jamie Defonde, the mom of Nicole’s student, Gabriella Defonde. Jamie wrote “Nicole has gone above and beyond in her care and compassion for the students during this pandemic. She is teaching my daughter [remotely] this year and does everything to create as much of a normal class environment as she can. Having live lunch with classmates as if they were in the cafeteria, creating the opportunity for students to do fun activities and exchanges. Her work with the students and watching them grow in their knowledge has been remarkable, especially at such crucial learning ages.”

Nicole has worked very hard to make this school year as similar to others as possible. She believes that it is important to still do fun activities together and allow students to socialize in meetings as they normally would. She said, “I try my best to make our classroom and our meetings feel just like if we were in school and want to make sure they are not missing out on any experiences.”

Nicole’s efforts were recognized earlier in the school year but Stacy Peffley, the mom of two of Nicole’s other students, Dylan and Tyler Peffley. Stacy praised Nicole’s hard work and thanked her for making the experience of remote learning a “great” one for her boys.

Nicole appreciates the tools available to her as a remote teacher and utilizes a variety of methods to connect with her students and parents and in return, parents appreciate Nicole’s efforts. Ms. Defonde ended her nomination by writing, “I do not feel like we are in the unknown but more like this is how it's always been and that is the way it should feel to try and bring that normalcy to the students. Thank you for your care, dedication, and compassion for your students!”

Congratulations Ms. McCarthy and thank you for bringing your students together in virtual education!

March 5 Shining Stars: NSCSD Support Staff (Bus Drivers and Transportation Employees, Custodial and Maintenance Workers, Food Service Staff, Clerical and Office Personnel and Everone who Supports Instructional Staff)
  As we spend time exploring ways to improve the educational experience, we don’t necessarily always hear about our schools’ support staff. School support personnel are the backbone of our schools and the work they do behind the scenes is critical to ensuring schools run smoothly.
This week, we received a nomination for one of the many wonderful school support staff members but that person was hesitant to be singled out for recognition. In honor of this week’s ‘Shining Star’, we wanted to recognize that the work being done by the many District support personnel is every bit as important as that of our instructional staff and should be celebrated.
NSCSD support staff, including bus drivers and transportation employees, custodial and maintenance workers, food service staff, clerical and office personnel and all who support teachers, work to ensure that schools function properly and that students receive what they need each day.
These paraprofessionals often assist students directly and may act as informal social workers, mentors or coaches.
In nominating a Cicero-North Syracuse High School support staff person for recognition, Teacher Alina Capria pointed out that this person continually “checks in” with students to make sure they have what they need. It is not uncommon for her to invite students to her office to discuss what is bothering them and to help them put their emotions into words.
Alina said, “Not only is she wonderful at caring for the students, she is also the best at caring for teachers. She is always bending over backwards to assist staff with responsibilities beyond her job description and is truly an asset to C-NS High School.”
Thank you to all of the amazing support personnel for the small things you do every day to make a big difference for our teachers and students!

February 26 Shining Stars: Shannon Knapp and the NSCSD Instructional Coaches for Technology Integration
This week’s Shining Star is Shannon Knapp, an Instructional Coach for Technology Integration (Tech Coach) at Gillette Road Middle School, Cicero-North Syracuse High School and the North Syracuse Early Education Program. When she was notified that she had been nominated for recognition, Shannon said, “Any recognition that is directed my way is the result of the incredible team of Instructional Coaches for Technology Integration at NSCSD, and the Tech TA's and Tech Department that keep us up and running.”
Together, Shannon and her fellow Tech Coaches, Chris Manke (Allen Road, KWS Bear Road, Lakeshore Road, Smith Road and Cicero Elementary schools), and Danielle Barrett (Roxboro Road Elementary, Gillette Road Middle School, Roxboro Road Middle School and North Syracuse Junior High School), provide all NSCSD teachers with the technology resources and critical support necessary to succeed in today’s educational environment.
Shannon was nominated for recognition by one of her coworkers, Lisa Goldberg, the District’s Director of Social Emotional Learning & Social Studies. In her nomination, Lisa wrote, “Shannon is a master teacher’s teacher. Her commitment to growing the digital citizenship of her colleagues, the students and families of our District is unparalleled. Everyone she works with leaves the interaction better than when they entered it. She is a wonder!”
Shannon Knapp has been a part of the NSCSD since 1989, first as a special educator with the North Syracuse Early Education Program and then taking a break to be at home from 1998-2006. Shannon returned to special education at NSEEP in 2006 but in 2015, with the increasing need for technology support, Shannon transitioned to a Tech Coach. Shannon appreciates the opportunity to support her students and peers in a new way. She said, “The coaches are proud of the growth and flexible thinking we have seen in the entire staff. With every interaction we hope to model the type of digital learning environment that District educators can provide for their own students.”
Being a long-time employee of the District, Shannon has formed many connections with various other staff. David Lunden currently works as the District’s Director of Instructional Leadership but also has a long history with the NSCSD. As such, Lunden has worked with Shannon in various capacities and praises her work on all levels. Lunden said, “Shannon’s work ethic is rivaled only by her enthusiasm and incredible skill set. Our Tech Coaches are invaluable in this digital work. They support learners not only understanding how to utilize technology, but how to be more self-directed and confident as technology users. Their commitment is amazing and Shannon has been the anchor of our team at every turn.”
Congratulations to Shannon Knapp and thank you to Shannon, Chris and Danielle for being outstanding Instructional Coaches for Technology Integration!

February 12 Shining Stars: NSCSD Building Technology Teaching Assistants (Tech TAs)
In an educational environment where the majority of students are learning virtually at least part of the time, the ability to connect using technology is critically important. This week the District’s team of Technology Teaching Assistants (Tech TAs) is being recognized for their essential role in the education of all NSCSD students.

The Tech TA team of Lisa Frateschi, Shari Doherty, Renee Merritt, Diana Card, Annette Stein, Bridget Burns, Mary-Alice Swanson, Kelly Burke and Patricia DeRienzo was nominated for recognition by the District’s Tech Coaches. In the nomination, the group was referred to as “frontline” workers for all things tech: “Anytime there is an issue, they are the first responders and find solutions that allow education to continue.” 

Even before the pandemic, the District’s Technology Teaching Assistants played an important role in education, ensuring that students, teachers and building staff had access to, and an understanding of, technology. When students and teachers had to transition to remote education this past spring, the TAs became indispensable. 

Sherrie Hamilton is an IT (Information Technology) Systems Administrator for the NSCSD and works with the Tech TAs. She said, “Every single student in the district received a Chromebook in the spring because [the TAs] were brave enough to distribute them directly into the hands of families in the midst of a global pandemic. [They have] supported all students since then whether remote or in person and continue to support all the needs of building staff all day, every day.”

In addition to providing access to technology, the TAs work tirelessly to ensure that all students and staff can get tech help when needed. Each TA has a dedicated email address and phone number and is available both in-person and remotely.  

Kathy Wheeler, the principal of Cicero Elementary School said the following about their school’s Tech TA, Renee Merritt: “Our Tech TA has made our Hybrid and Remote models possible. We could not begin to do this without her continued support. Like the rest of us, she has had to re-learn her job and is always available to patiently support us, our students, and our parents.”

As our staff, students and families continue to navigate the challenges of teaching and learning in a virtual environment, we are incredibly thankful for the “first responders” who keep things running smoothly and provide help and support with a smile. Many building principals and parents have chimed in with echoes of thanks and praise for the work the Tech TAs are doing every day. The collective sentiments are best summed up in the words used to nominate the group: “[They] can always be counted on with all things TECH for students, parents and staff. Our building Tech TAs truly shine bright during these challenging times. Thank you to all!” 

February 5 Shining Star: Cicero-North Syracuse High School Business Teacher and Northstar Coach Mike Lucia
This week’s Shining Star is Mike Lucia, a Business teacher at Cicero-North Syracuse High School and a longtime coach in the NSCSD
Mr. Lucia was nominated for recognition by Christina Docteur, the parent of one of his current modified boys’ volleyball program students. In addition to having a child currently working with Mr. Lucia, Christina has had two other boys learn from Mr. Lucia. “As the parent of 3 children in the district, I want to recognize Mr. Lucia's compassion and consistent efforts to be there for our kids,” she wrote. “School is not all about sports, but sports can make everything about school better, with teachers and coaches like Mike.”
Mike has been teaching and coaching in the North Syracuse Central School District for the past 23 years. In addition to working with the boys’ varsity and modified volleyball teams, Mr. Lucia coaches for the boys’ modified baseball team. He is in the coordinator of the boys’ volleyball program for the entire Section III and representative for New York State.
The North Syracuse Central School District’s Athletic Director, Tim Bednarski, has worked with Mike for the past ten years and feels fortunate for that. Bednarski said, “I’ve had the distinct pleasure of working with Mike and watching him coach. He is one of the most well-respected and loved teachers and coaches that I know.”
In addition to teaching and coaching, Mike works with C-NS and NSJH students involved with DECA, a business leadership group. Additionally, he is involved with the Make-a-Wish Foundation and has arranged many opportunities for his students and players to support the organization.
Ms. Docteur wrote, “Mr. Lucia is an incredibly supportive, positive, and enthusiastic member of the NSCSD. I have had the benefit of seeing the multi-dimensional ways he supports his teams. He has made every possible effort for the boys to be able to play beach volleyball in person (despite the starts and stops due to COVID). But more recently, this has included a steady stream of positive messages sent out. The message he sent today focused on the importance of school work and motivation and how to negotiate these things during the pandemic, including reaching out to him personally. The tenor of the message is similar to the others he has sent out: supportive, encouraging, but realistic and approachable.”
Thank you Mr. Lucia for being a wonderful teacher and coach and positive influence on your students!

January 29 Shining Star: Cicero Elementary School Speech/Language Teacher, Colleen Hinrichs
This week’s Shining Star is Colleen Hinrichs, a Speech/Language teacher at Cicero Elementary School. 

Colleen was nominated for recognition by Lilian Bui, the parent of one of her kindergarten students, Tyler Mai. In her nomination, Lilian wrote, “Ms. Hinrichs is the best speech therapist ever. My kindergarten boy, Tyler, doesn’t like to do school work, but he enjoys every minute on Zoom with Ms. Hinrichs. She makes him feel very comfortable and she encourages him to speak up.”

Colleen says communication is critical and feels fortunate to have the technology and tools necessary to facilitate interaction and engagement despite physical separation. She said, “This year has been tough for everyone, but seeing my students, whether it has been on Zoom or in person, has provided such a sense of joy! Communication is so important, and I love that I get to help our students express themselves!” 

She believes that good communication is the key to overcoming barriers and cites one of her favorite quotes from Daniel Webster: "If all my possessions were taken from me, with one exception, I would choose to keep the power of communication, for with it, I would regain all the rest." 

Colleen has been a part of the North Syracuse Central School District and the Cicero Elementary School family for the past three years. Cicero Elementary School Principal Kathy Wheeler is happy to have her as part of the team and says, “Colleen is a very special teacher.  She is dedicated to her students, and she does whatever it takes to engage her students.”

Ms. Wheeler added, “Whether it’s in their classroom, in her therapy room, or on Zoom, she makes learning fun and students want to work hard to improve.” 

The District's Executive Director for Pupil Personnel Services, Valerie DiFlorio agrees with Ms. Wheeler and says, "“Colleen’s enthusiasm and joy while working with children is evident in her daily sessions. She has been a great asset to the NSCSD staff."

Lilian Bui ended her nomination saying, “Tyler is very lucky to have Ms. Hinrichs to be his teacher. Thank you, Ms. Hinrichs,” then adding, “I also think that Cicero Elementary is a shining star from all of the schools in our district.”

January 29 Student Shining Star Shout Out: Julia Kulakowski
This week, we also received a special shout out from one student to another and wanted to include it. Grace Sugrue, a student at Cicero-North Syracuse High School took time to write a nomination for her best friend, Julia Kulakowski, also a student at C-NS. 

In her nomination, Grace wrote, "I want to recognize Julia because she is my best friend and has helped me stay positive during this pandemic. I am very thankful and appreciate the support. Julia stands out to me because she is such a genuinely kind, compassionate, and amazing person. She always knows how to make me laugh and we’ve made so many good memories together. She is honestly like a sister to me and I’m so lucky to have a best friend like her." 

January 22 Shining Star: North Syracuse Junior High School and Cicero-North Syracuse High School Teacher, John Nadler
This week’s Shining Star is John Nadler, a teacher at both Cicero-North Syracuse High School and North Syracuse Junior High School. Mr. Nadler was nominated by three separate students for Shining Star recognition!

As a teacher in the North Syracuse Central School District for more than two decades, Mr. Nadler has had wonderful coworkers and credits his peers for inspiring him. “I've been blessed in my life to work with incredible teachers and colleagues that have inspired me to pay it forward in any way I can,” Nadler said.

In addition to his teaching responsibilities at the two schools, Mr. Nadler oversees the schools’ Tech Crew (4D Productions), directs the annual junior high talent show, serves on the district's technology committee and provides mentoring for new teachers.

Mr. Nadler believes that students need real world opportunities working together as a team toward a common goal. He has been critical in implementing several stage production classes for which he designed the curriculum and is currently teaching. Of the classes he said, “Most are in our work-based learning program, which helps kids land jobs right after high school.  Even though internships are down due to the pandemic, one of our seniors, Spencer Congel, last month was offered a position with WNCY Jazz.”

In the multiple Shining Star nominations, one of his student nominators, Mirella Borte wrote, “I have Mr. Nadler in [English Language Arts] and Intro to Technical Theater. He is doing everything to help us succeed during these times, whether that is a call during class or an exchange of emails. He is trying to make this year seem as normal as possible, which I extremely appreciate.”

Mr. Nadler is committed to his students’ success and feels that attitude is critical. He said, “This past year has been challenging for all. I keep telling my students to think about what we CAN do, versus what we can't. Even though we can't do live shows right now, the crew has stayed busy with several district video projects and off-campus opportunities.”

A second of Mr. Nadler’s student nominators, Johnny Lisi, a student at North Syracuse Junior High School, wrote, “Mr. Nadler is one of the best teachers I've ever had. Intro to Technical Theater is my favorite class! He worked so hard to make this class possible and is constantly working to make the class awesome over Google Meet! I'm so happy that I've had him the past 2 years!”

Mr. Nadler’s third student nominator, Isabella Borte, provided a photo along with her nomination. Isabella said, “Mr. Nadler is an amazing teacher and an incredible person. He is extremely funny, and he always comes to class with a joke or story for us that makes our day. He has a great positive attitude and puts so much of his time and effort into planning talent shows and musicals and finding time to help his students and his tech crew.” 

North Syracuse Junior High School Principal Constance L. Turose is grateful to have Mr. Nadler as a teacher. She said, “John Nadler has spent his entire teaching career at North Syracuse Junior High School. We are fortunate that he decided to become a member of our staff. John has a passion for teaching that goes well beyond the classroom. He inspires and challenges his students to do their very best. Students do not always say that English is their favorite subject but many of them will tell you that Mr. Nadler is their favorite teacher.”

Mr. Nadler was also recognized as the North Syracuse Central School District Teacher of the Year for the 2013 - 2014 school year.  

Congratulations Mr. Nadler!

January 15 Shining Star: KWS Bear Road Elementary School Teacher, Janelle Jacobson
This week’s Shining Star is Janelle Jacobson, a kindergarten teacher at Karl W. Saile Bear Road Elementary School. 

One of Janelle’s favorite quotes, “Students don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care,” by American author John C. Maxwell, motivates her to always teach with kindness and compassion. Ms. Jacobson has been teaching in the North Syracuse Central School District for the past four years and at Bear Road Elementary for three of those years. In her short time at that school though Janelle has already had an impact. 

Janelle was nominated for Shining Star recognition by Leana Hartzig, the parent of one of Blake Okun, a current student, whose brother Benjamin had her as a teacher last year. “My oldest son had her for kindergarten last year and loved her. After the school closures she went above and beyond to stay connected to the kids. She made surprise visits to the kids, with parent consent of course and found little ways to show them she cared even from far away,” Leana wrote. 

Janelle admits that teaching during COVID-19 has presented some unique obstacles. “The biggest challenge has been trying to continue to create relationships with my students/families through Zoom being a remote only teacher,” she said.

While Janelle admits to the challenge, Leana feels that she has succeeded in meeting her goals and said, “She has done an amazing job providing materials, keeping schedules up to date, informing parents of plans and has even put together crafts for the kids to do this holiday season that they would normally do in school.” Leana continued, “Both of my boys love her and I am so grateful for her during this stressful and crazy year.”

Janelle says that her favorite thing about teaching is watching a student have a “light bulb” moment when they accomplish a task they have been working hard on. She is grateful for the relationships she is able to create with her and their families and also for the technology that makes it possible to stay connected when they’re not together. “My biggest accomplishment during the pandemic has been learning all the new technology I can use to continue to teach my students,” Janelle said.

John Cole, the KWS Bear Road Elementary School Principal is happy to have Janelle on his staff. He said, “Janelle is a joy to work with. She builds strong relationships with all her students and families. Her dedication to her grade level, our building staff and community is apparent to everyone she interacts with. We are lucky she chose to call KWS BRE her work home!”

Congratulations Janelle and thank you for the connections you are making!

January 8 Shining Star: Gillette Road Middle School Teacher, Domenic Liccione
This week’s Shining Star is Domenic Liccione, currently a band teacher, who has also been the chorus and classroom music teacher at Gillette Road Middle School. In addition to teaching, Mr. Liccione has been directing the school’s musical productions for the past two decades.

Mr. Liccione has a passion for teaching and music and he shares that appreciation with his students. In her nomination for the instructor, Amanda Coyle, the mom of four of Liccione’s current and former students, wrote, “He inspires my children (and so many others) to appreciate music and aspire to be great musicians.”

Now in his 24th year teaching in the North Syracuse Central School District, Mr. Liccione appreciates that students have varying degrees of musical interest. “My favorite thing about teaching is the relationships you build with the students and helping them meet their goals. Not every student will major in music, but I want them to achieve and enjoy their time playing their instrument as much as possible,” he said. “We have had many outstanding musicians come through Gillette and a number who are playing out nationally.” 

Because of the pandemic and schools being forced to go partially remote, this school year has presented many challenges for teachers and students. “Our house was considering not continuing with instruments this year because of the hurdles of learning to play remotely. I am so glad that my children decided to give it a try,” said Amanda Coyle. “The 30 minutes [they] spend on
Domenic Liccione, a Music Teacher at Gillette Road
Middle School, takes a moment to pose with Riley,
one of his former students, after a production of
"Beauty and the Beast" during the 2016-2017 school year.
Liccione has been directing Gillette Road Middle
School's musical productions since 2001. 
zoom music lessons with Mr. Liccione is the highlight of their week. Mr. Liccione is engaging and shows an interest in all the children.”

Donna Marie Norton, the administrator who oversees the NSCSD music program, agrees with Coyle’s nomination. She said, “Mr. Liccione is both a passionate teacher and musician.  He is able to connect with his students and inspire in them a love of music.  He has a fantastic sense of humor, dedicates countless hours to his students and school and models a positive attitude for his colleagues. He is certainly a Shining Star within our staff!”

Congratulations Domenic Liccione and thank you for inspiring all students!

December 18 Shining Star: Cicero Elementary School Teacher, Ashley Stevens
Ashley Stevens, an English as a New Language Teacher at Cicero Elementary School, works hard to make connections with her students. She is pictured dressed as a snowman as part of the school's hat day. 
This week’s Shining Star is Ashley Stevens, an English as a New Language (ENL) Teacher at Cicero Elementary School. Ashley is being recognized for her efforts to provide exceptional instruction for her English Language Learners (ELLs).

Ashley was nominated by her fellow ENL teacher, Beth Foxenberg, who says that Ashley works diligently to provide instruction in English throughout the academic day to her students. 

Cicero Elementary School Principal Kathy Wheeler agrees that Ashley has been a valuable asset for her students. She said, “She has worked hard to serve our English Language Learners in new ways and to ensure they continue learning under these difficult conditions. I appreciate her love of our ELLs and her work to keep them learning and growing!”

As an alum of the NSCSD, Ashley is proud to be working in this area. “This is my eighth year of teaching, but only my third year in this district and I am proud to teach in the community that shaped me into the person I am today. My goal for all my ELLs is to become proficient in the English language, as well as being comfortable and confident in their school environment,” she said.

In her nomination for Ashley, Beth praised her colleague for utilizing family connections to help her students. Beth said, “Mrs. Stevens finds innovative ways to ensure she is communicating with students and parents while collaborating with her peers instructionally. Students enjoy coming into the ENL room to learn how to communicate in English!”

Ashley set the goal of having all “ELLs become proficient in the English language, and comfortable and confident in their school environment” and is willing to employ creative ways of connecting with her students. She shared the photo of herself dressed as a snowman for Cicero Elementary School’s hat day.  

David Lunden, the North Syracuse Central School District’s Director of Instructional Leadership, who oversees the ENL program and teachers also praised Ashley for her relationship-building skills. “Ashley continually shows passion and advocacy for the needs of our English Language Learners while contributing to the team’s growth as a whole. The relationships she develops with our classroom teachers to support and work alongside them has always caught my attention,” he said. “Her ability to establish strong, authentic, and caring relationships with the students, their families, and her colleagues is what makes her shine even brighter – great job Ashley!”

December 11 Shining Star: North Syracuse Junior High School Teacher, Tim Krueger
This week’s Shining Star is Timothy Krueger, a social studies teacher at North Syracuse Junior High School. Tim has been teaching at the junior high for 17 years and has repeatedly been recognized as a positive influence on his students. 

He was nominated as a Shining Star by the parent of one of his current students, Juliana Carter. Juliana’s mom, Lisa-Marie Carter praised Mr. Krueger for his efforts to connect with students. She said, “Mr. Krueger has been amazing since school started. He has truly found a balance between instruction and SEL. He has been incredibly positive and flexible with students while also maintaining high expectations.”

As a long-time educator herself, Mrs. Carter has a special appreciation for Mr. Krueger’s methods. She said, “His approach is contagious and his positive energy seeps into his interactions, email messages and Google Classroom activities. Instructionally, materials are easy to find and lessons are clear and relevant.” 

To demonstrate her point, Lisa-Marie included a screen shot of a communication between her daughter and Mr. Krueger and said, “Messages like the one attached make a world of difference for kids; thank you so much for everything!”

When he learned that he had been nominated for recognition, Mr. Krueger was humbled and a bit uncomfortable about being singled out. He acknowledged the complexities of teaching and learning this year by saying, “We are all struggling in our own way with this new attempt at education and doing the best we can. If I am feeling overwhelmed, then how are my students handling it?  One day at a time, one assignment at a time, and somewhere in there let’s try to connect and encourage.  If a couple words of feedback can make a kid laugh or give them some confidence then I’m all in.”

North Syracuse Junior High School Building Principal, Constance Turose reacted to the news about Mr. Krueger without surprise. She said, “Mr. Krueger is one of those teachers that as a parent you would want your child to have. He is personable, funny, makes connections to kids, and knows his curriculum. He relates well to everyone – staff, students and parents. We are very happy and proud to have him as a junior high school teacher.”

Congratulations Mr. Krueger and thank you for providing exceptional educational experiences for your students!

Mr Krueger, who says one of his favorite things about teaching is that he gets to have "sometimes hilarious and sometimes deep conversations with students" because he enjoys sharing laughter, is pictured above in a silly selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower. In the second photo, he is pictured with one of his former students, Jessica Cook, at her Varsity Girls' Basketball Teacher Appreciation ceremony. 

Pictured to the left is a screen shot of of a communication between Mr. Krueger and one of his students. 

December 4 Shining Star: Cicero-North Syracuse High School Teacher, Danielle Rausa
Danielle is pictured above at the C-NS Class of 2020 Graduation ceremony, getting student approval after
having taken a requested selfie with the new
high school grad!
Not only did this week's Shining Star selection, Danielle Rausa, receive TWO nominations from her students, we also recently received an announcement that she was nominated as a Claes Nobel Educator of Distinction! 

The words of praise from her students include the following: 

"She makes me want to come to school and see her because she’s very bright and happy and one of the funniest teachers I’ve ever had." - Chanel Syrell

"Mrs Rausa is outstanding. She has Zoom meeting everyday we would have class so we can have our class with our classmates. I am 100% remote and being able to see my her every other day really helps. She is always there for me and helps me in anyway I need. It really makes a difference seeing her each day. Knowing I get to is something I look forward to. Mrs Rausa is the most amazing teacher and helps her students anyway they need it. She deserves to be recognized." - Emma Peters

Congratulations Danielle and thank you for inspiring your students!



November 20 Shining Star: Lakeshore Road Elementary School Teacher, Ginell Iversen
Dorian Armstrong has been a student in the North Syracuse Central School District since kindergarten, but this year, as a third grader, he began at a new school. As a KWS Bear Road Elementary School student, Dorian was among the group of students relocated to Lakeshore Road Elementary School for the 2020-2021 school year. 

Dorian's father, Jason Armstrong, was nervous about his son going to a new school in the middle of a pandemic but said, "He really has had a nice transition considering he had to transfer from KWS Bear Rd. due to renovations and is only hybrid due to the COVID-19 pandemic." 

Mr. Armstrong credit's Dorian's classroom teacher, Ginell Iversen, for making the transition easier. "I appreciate her for building a positive climate and culture in her class and making my son feel the joy of being in school in such a difficult time," he said.

"Dorian is sharing more about school than he has in the past. He is excited to attend, motivated to learn and he says he really likes his teacher and his class this year," Armstrong added. "Thank you Ms. Iversen!"

When she learned about being nominated as a shining star, Ms. Iversen said, "I'm so grateful to be part of the Lakeshore Team. I do my best to make sure my students feel loved, no matter what."

Like Dorian, Ms. Iversen is also new to Lakeshore Road Elementary School. Tina Chmielewski, Lakeshore's Principal said, "Miss Iversen joined our Lakeshore family this year. Just a few weeks before school started she was moved from first grade at KWS Bear Road Elementary to third grade at Lakeshore Road.  A new grade level and a new school!  Ms Iversen has adapted very well.  She takes on every challenge with a smile, is a team player, eager to learn, and is the kind of teacher that will do whatever it takes to support her students!  Congratulations Ms. Iversen!" 

In the top photo, Miss Iversen prepares for a day at school with a positive attitude and a friendly smile for her students.

Bottom photo: Dorian Armstrong is pictured at home getting ready to head to Lakeshore Road Elementary School for a day of instruction with Ms. Iversen. 


November 13 Shining Star: North Syracuse Junior High School Student/Family
This week, we are proud to recognize our first STUDENT Shining Star and her family.
Nominated by North Syracuse Junior High School teacher, Maria Carozza, and teaching assistant, Rachelle Brown, is 8th grade student Hannah Dillabough.

Hannah is a fully remote student who, with the tremendous support of her grandmother, Lori Harrington, consistently livestreams into her classroom at North Syracuse Junior High School.

Maria and Rachelle report that Hannah has not missed a day of school and regularly completes all work. They are impressed with the way Hannah navigates all assignments from her special area classes with assistance from her grandmother, who Hannah affectionately calls "Nana."

'Nana' Harrington is busy remote teaching three grandchildren and babysitting a fourth grandchild who just turned five.

Maria said, "Mrs. Harrington is always patient and supportive and is learning to navigate the various technology platforms for all of her grandchildren. This is truly an amazing family that deserves recognition!"

Congratulations to Hannah and her wonderful family. Many thanks to Maria and Rachelle for taking the time to recognize the outstanding efforts! 

Maria Carozza explains the photos submitted as follows: 

In the top photo, Aaron B. is on the left and Nick G. is on the right. This picture was taken as our beginning of the year 'class family' photo. Distance can't prevent us from being together. It is doubly fitting as Hannah is wearing a sweatshirt with the Be Kind message that is said everyday on our closing announcements. This was not planned.
In the second photo Hannah is on Nick's Chromebook, so she can be mobile and join us in our kitchen to help us cook!  She reads recipes and 'directs' the boys!  Hannah also gets to eat the fruits of our labor, as I drop off what was made on Wednesday and Friday to her so she doesn't miss out!


November 6 Shining Stars: Roxboro Road Middle School Physical Education Staff
The North Syracuse Central School District is excited to have received our first NSCSD Shining Star Shout-out! Roxboro Road Middle School Associate Principal, Ashley Carducci, wants to recognize the Physical Education (PE) staff at that school for the great work they are doing focusing on SEL (social emotional learning) in conjunction with their normal instruction. 

The school's PE staff, (pictured from left to right) Jill Millias, Jon June, Kim Lucia, and Curtis Merrick (not pictured), have spent time with students talking about remaining thankful through adversity. Students are encouraged to complete gratitude slips, which are then posted on the PE hallway windows as a reminder to others. 

Ms. Carducci was impressed with the trio's positivity when visiting their classroom recently. She said, "They are working together and remaining flexible despite the conditions this year. They're staying positive and optimistic and that attitude is appreciated!"