I dropped off my youngest child at Manhasset Secondary School for the last time this past week and tears welled up in my eyes.
As I reflected back on my family’s experiences across the years at Manhasset Schools it was the human element that resonated. Smart boards, glorious turf fields, and elaborate galas while lovely accoutrements, have for me always paled, in contrast and comparison to what I considered crucial to a meaningful education; the contributions of motivated, caring and compassionate teachers, counselors and administrators.
Parenthetically, while being exposed to a dearth of information relative to budget concerns, it always struck me that there was no way to place a dollar amount on the value of a teacher who was capable of sparking a young persons zest for learning, or interest in a particular subject; or of one whose encouragement built a students confidence, or promoted their independent thinking; or whose praise raised a young persons feeling of self worth; or whose guidance opened new doors and aided that individuals personal growth.
Notable to me was a recent conversation that I had with my son wherein he cited as most significant to him those teachers that consistently kept up with him and inquired about his progress and views on life after he had finished whatever course he had with them, thereby demonstrating interest and concern which came from the heart, as they are neither evaluated for such conduct, nor obligated, to offer such interest.
For those gifts I give thanks to the countless number of Manhasset School staff who have provided them. In particular the following group have touched our family, but the references are in no way meant to be exclusive: Russell Ainbinder, Anthony Blyskal, David Dorman, Jane Grappone, Candyce Kannengiser, Chris Keen, Jennifer Landman, Donald Lee, Ken Massetti, Joseph Miraglia, Robert Novak, Doris Rodgers, Bob Rule, Eric Shapiro, Leslie Scholnik, and Principal Dean Schlanger. We also have fond memories and lament the retirements of such luminary teachers as Joseph D’Angelo, Noel Gish, Eileen Murphy, and Linda Stampler. Their contributions cannot be replaced.
The experience also gave me pause to consider this particular son’s journey through adolescence, which has been truly remarkable and a story worth sharing because his trek has been something to emulate.
It has been my privilege to watch as his local group of friends willingly and assertively spread their wings and, aided by social media and old fashioned interpersonal get-togethers, expanded their circle into a large diverse collective of adolescents from towns spanning Whitestone to Commack on the North, across to Wantagh on the South and many villages in between. They challenged conventional notions in doing so and forged nothing less than a loving and supporting family from which each member drew strength. Most striking was the group’s diversity in gender, ethnicity, and financial status and their finding common ground and the willingness to bond and support one another notwithstanding those differences.
This group stood as a cushion for the inevitable fall when transitory aspirations of admittance to “that” particular University crashed and burned against the enigmatic, nay seemingly unfair, college admissions process. Disappointed applicants grappled with the realities of the vagaries of life impacting on us all, not withstanding our best efforts and hopefully found solace in the realization of the value of true and loving friends and family serving not only as a safety net for our emotional drops, but literally giving our lives the meaning they hold.
To all of my son’s fellow graduates at Manhasset High School, particularly to those who shared in his special journey, and to all of those in our extended family, I wish them fulfillment in their quests. May they relish the gifts of their age and seek to follow their own unique visions, rather than let their visions defined by the masses. May they recognize and seize upon the glorious opportunities that I believe exist at any and all of our institutions of higher learning, from Princeton to Podunk, and beyond, for those motivated to find them.
Most of all may they find happiness and contribute to making this a better world for themselves and their families.
Leland Garbus and Family