Goodbye to a Golden Group at Rye Neck

At the end of the school year, a number of longtime Rye Neck administrators, faculty, and staff retired. We salute one and all.

joan-babcock thumb
Published July 19, 2012 8:31 PM
7 min read

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joan-babcock thumbAt the end of the school year, a number of longtime Rye Neck administrators, faculty, and staff retired. We salute one and all.

 

joan babcock-img 0318

At the end of the school year, a number of longtime Rye Neck administrators, faculty, and staff retired. We salute one and all.

 

Principal Joan Babcock

 

After 14 years in the Rye Neck School District, 11 of those as principal of Daniel Warren Elementary, Joan Babcock has given hundreds of students the solid foundation that will carry them through a lifetime of learning.

 

Recalling her introduction to the district, Babcock said, “I fell in love with it and I have loved every minute of working with incredible teachers and staff, a supportive administration who believed in my mission, and a generous and talented parent pool always willing to help.”

 

Like the flute-playing pied piper, Babcock led the Daniel Warren community through many ambitious projects. Having a genesis of an idea that typically spiraled into a new program, she was way ahead of the curve when she implemented school and community health and wellness initiatives. Daniel Warren went ‘green’ long before it was fashionable.

 

Among the programs of which Babcock is proudest are: the sustainable Peace Garden, the annual science fairs, and a thriving home/school partnership. In addition, she provided a welcoming atmosphere for the many international families and helped these parents by “demystifying teaching literacy.”

 

Rye Neck Superintendent Peter Mustich thanked Babcock for her dedicated service to the district. “She was a wonderful principal, a constant advocate for students and staff. Her enthusiasm and commitment to learning was evident to all who know her.”

 

Babcock will miss the collegiality of the staff and “the daily curiosity and growth I see in the little ones. But my heart is happy because Daniel Warren has a strong vision.”

 

Joining her husband Alan in retirement, she hopes “to take a breath and enjoy traveling.” She will continue to hold garden symposiums for fellow educators and says she will “definitely do something in education because I love kids too much.”

 

Administrative Assistant Gerry Gonchgerry gonch-img 0332

 

As the administrative assistant for Rye Neck High School’s principal for 18 years, Gerry Gonch is the face of Rye Neck. Having started her career in the district 24 years ago and having had four of her children educated there, from kindergarten through high school, Rye Neck has been home.

 

“I will miss my colleagues and I will miss watching the students’ excitement over all the school events, from the mock trial, to the musical, to the prom,” she said.

 

There was no such thing as a daily grind for Gonch. “Each new grade had a little twist on things, so every class was new.”

 

Principal Barbara Ferraro noted, “Gerry was of one of the most remarkable women and one of the most generous professionals that I have had the pleasure of working with. She could calm a situation with her gentle smile and encouraging words, empower students and colleagues to take charge, and support parents.”

 

A crackerjack multi-tasker, Gonch served as the congenial liaison between the principal and the parents. Moreover, she guided parents and students through the challenges of high school. What was her secret? “I really listened to them and it gave them a feeling of security.”

 

“I’ve always enjoyed satisfying the faculty’s needs and trying to make things easier for people,” she admitted. “It has also been gratifying to guide the students, soothe their woes, and enjoy all their celebrations.”

 

Gonch’s affinity for the students was not confined to her desk. Through the years, she was a frequent visitor to their athletic events, competitions, concerts, and musicals.

 

She’ll be back to visit, but she looks forward to having the time to travel with her husband Bill, and babysit for her grandchildren.

 

pat rinello-img 0322Theater and Humanities Teacher Pat Rinello

 

After 35 years in the Rye Neck School District, Pat Rinello is taking her final bow. An award-winning director of the annual school musical and a beloved theater and humanities teacher, Rinello has put on a great show.

 

When Rinello began her career as an English teacher at the Middle School for two years before transferring to the high school, there were no theater or humanity arts classes. Now there are five and two sections, respectively. She is proud to have built the foundation. “The community has grown to value the role of the arts in a child’s education.

 

The parents, faculty, and administration have always been so supportive. Now, it’s part of the vision of the district,” she said.

 

She is also honored to have been the Senior Advisor during the last three decades. “High school seniors are a wonderful age group. They’re young adults learning about who they are as human beings. Playing a small part in helping them make their own piece of the world a little better has been very important to me.”

 

Language Department Chair Rita Carolini heralded Rinello’s dedication. “As Senior Advisor, she was always the students’ advocate, their mom away from home, and their friend. Her unconditional love touched one and all.”

Rinello sees retirement as a “new beginning”. Perhaps she’ll serve as a consultant to other teachers, who’d like to build and sustain a theater program. She also plans on spending time with her four grandchildren at “Camp Rinello”.

Regardless of the next stage of life, she admitted, “I’ll miss the Rye Neck kids. It has been a great opportunity to inspire students and watch them knock audiences dead.”

 

 

Teacher Karen Colaneri karen colaneri-img 0327

 

 

No one knows fifth graders like Karen Colaneri, who taught in the Rye Neck School district for 22 years. “Fifth-grade students are the perfect age,” she reflected. “They still listen but at the same time they’re independent enough to engage in programs on their own. It’s amazing the way they internalize information.”

 

By all accounts, this Teacher of the Year made the classroom come alive. While utilizing 21st-century learning strategies and cutting-edge technology, such as web links and live event learning, Colaneri comes from the old school. She instilled a love of reading and learning in all her students. Whether devising interdisciplinary projects or creating poetry booklets, she not only reinforced, but enriched state standards.

 

“I would have to say that my proudest accomplishment is the change I brought about in students who lacked confidence, were non-readers, and/or had poor writing skills. In the social studies realm, it has been rewarding to see children come to understand and appreciate the sacrifices of those who paved the way for freedom,” said Colaneri, who is also the recipient of the Westchester Council for Social Studies’ Outstanding Middle School Teacher Award.

 

“Karen Colaneri is the consummate professional,” said F.E. Bellows Principal Marge Longabucco. “She is a reflective practitioner and was always thinking about new ways to engage students in learning.”

 

Colaneri will miss collaborating with her colleagues and “this very special community.” She admitted her departure is bittersweet. “Everyone told me, ‘teach until you don’t enjoy it anymore.’ But the truth is I’ve never stopped enjoying it. When you truly love what you do, you haven’t worked a day in your life, and that has been the essence of my career.”

 

barbara quartironi-img 0337School Psychologist Barbara Quartironi

 

Barbara Quartironi has been the school psychologist at Rye Neck High School for 19 years, handling both the middle and high school for part of her tenure.

 

Among her varied responsibilities, Quartironi was involved in counseling, student evaluations, and social skills workshops for students with disabilities, and connecting families with appropriate community resources. She worked with both the mainstream high school population, as well as with special education students.

 

“I had the unique opportunity of getting to know so many adolescents and their families,” she said. “Because Rye Neck is small, I was able to see things through from the start to the conclusion.”

 

One of her most gratifying accomplishments was the Gay Straight Alliance Club, which she was instrumental in establishing. At its inception, the club had four members. She is proud to say she’s leaving it in the hands of 42 members. “It’s a home for students, who might not feel like they fit in. These are the kids who will go out into the world with a heightened awareness of justice and fairness.” she explained.

 

Her longtime colleague, speech pathologist Susan Altman, extolled her friend’s commitment. “Barbara has inspired the students to be supportive and tolerant of one another. She’s a skilled diagnostician and a real student advocate, who has helped so many families through sticky situations with grace and tremendous empathy,” she said.

 

Quartironi knows she will sorely miss her colleagues, “a great bunch of people, whom I have tremendous respect for.” Having made presentations on attention deficit and seizure disorders to help faculty educate that population of students, Quartironi hopes to act as a resource for Rye Neck and other schools. She will also be serving on the board of GLSEN (gay, lesbian and straight education network), a national organization that provides schools with anti-bullying programs through research-based interventions.

 

— Janice Llanes Fabry

 

 

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