It’s Teacher Appreciation Week, and each day five educators throughout the region will be featured in recognition of their hard work and dedication.
Teacher Appreciation Week is presented through a partnership between NEWSChannel 2, The Genesis Group and First Source Credit Union.
Here are Wednesday’s honorees and the messages submitted by those who nominated them:
Robyn Kulik is a first-grade teacher at Westmoreland Road Elementary School in the Whitesboro School District. This school year is Ms. Kulik's 20th year teaching 1st grade in the Whitesboro School District. She is the very inspiration as an educator who inspired me to become an elementary teacher myself.
In the classroom, Ms. Kulik has a genuinely warm and kind-hearted presence. Her loving personality and passion for teaching are clear when she is interacting with her students. Ms. Kulik's dedication to her students and district is admirable after so many years of teaching. She is very deserving of recognition as a wonderful educator this week.
Heather Gray is an exceptional teacher with a heart of gold and always puts her students first. She is a first grade teacher at Oriskany School, who not only goes above and beyond to help her students, but for parents as well. She has always made sure her students had the materials they needed. She would not hesitate to purchase them herself.
She also went out of her way to help a special family who was struggling due to medical issues. Ms. Gray even took up a collection to help purchase gifts to ensure the family could focus on themselves without worrying about the cost of Christmas. Heather Gray is definitely one of the best teachers I know. Thank you Heather, for just being you!
Mark Polkosnik, Ph.D.
Mark Polkosnik is a professor of legal and paralegal studies at Herkimer County Community College and an attorney. This past year, Dr. Polkosnik served as the College’s liaison for the College/Community Partnership for Racial Justice Reform, a coalition of area colleges taking a deep dive into our regional response to law enforcement, criminal justice, and racial justice. In this role, he presented a webinar titled “Understand the Use of Force” alongside Utica College’s Bernard Hyman and Plaintiff Attorney Steve Lockwood.
In the classroom, Mark uses current events as a springboard for his class discussions, giving all students a common base regardless of how much prior experience they have. Mark received the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Teaching in 2017.
Susan Kahn is a Social Studies teacher to the ESL (English as a second language) kids at Proctor. Before the start of the school year in the fall, she visited the homes of each student (some 75 in total), bringing them a packet of information, and reassuring them with a friendly face that she would be there for them. She did this on her own time, maintaining all covid protocols, by driving throughout the city going from home to home. Susan has a real connection with her students with close to 100% participation in her classes online. Susan also handles after school instruction. Susan is fluent in spanish and speaks Turkish, which puts the kids at ease and comfortable.
She goes the extra mile for her kids helping them with issues that might not be related to her history class. She is currently tutoring a Rohingya Muslim student from Burma who wants to learn Spanish on her own time. The young woman, whose family has escaped ethnic persecution to come to the United States two years ago, excells in all her classes and wants to be a doctor. Recently the school was having trouble reaching a student who had moved. The student was still coming to Susan's class via internet, so she volunteered to go to the student's new apartment, and get her parents to fill out documents the school needed. She is always available to these kids, many of whom struggle with elements of school that the American kids take for granted.
Susan Kahn is the kind of teacher who cares about her students and embodies what a true educator is. Not only does she teach, but she communicates and her students are benefitting from her dedication. She's an individual who embodies what we all should be to our immigrant neighbors.
Mark Bunce is a Music Teacher and the Chair of the Fine Arts program at Central Valley Academy. As a teacher he uses social emotional learning as the framework for music education with an understanding that for many, music helps students to connect with others and to cope with difficulty situations. This was especially important this year with many students experiencing stress and feeling isolated with virtual and hybrid learning.
In planning for the year Mr. Bunce thought creatively, not only on how to deliver NYS required music education remotely; but how to safely bring music ensembles together to rehearse and perform. At a time where students had lost so much of their normal high school experience, his focus was on creating opportunities for students to connect with one another through rehearsals and to enrich their experience by producing virtual performances.
Despite the high school remaining 100% virtual the first half of the year, the CVA auditorium was transformed into a safe rehearsal space where members of small select ensembles, positioned more than 12 feet apart and wearing masks could rehearse. The auditorium stage was outfitted with plexiglass partitions to allow vocal ensembles to record their performances “together” on stage.
Through collaboration with other music educators within the district and leveraging technology, a monologue play and four concerts were professionally produced and released to the public. Mr. Bunce has worked tirelessly this year to ensure that students remained connected and had opportunities, during a very challenging year, to do what they love, perform.