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Photos courtesy of Grand Island High School
Photos courtesy of Grand Island High School

PHOTOS: High school seniors honor teachers and coaches in Celebration of Inspiration

Fri, May 6th 2022 11:00 am

By Alice Gerard

In 2013, Emily Reynolds, then a fifth grader at Huth Road Elementary School, was named Relay For Life’s honorary caregiver for the love and attention that she showed her 8-year-old sister, Caralyn, who was going through cancer treatments.

“She is amazing, with a heart of gold. She would do anything for anyone. She loves her sister so much and wants her to get better,” said Emily’s fifth-grade teacher, Melissa Marciszewski, in an interview in May 2013.

Since then, Caralyn Reynolds has survived her cancer. Now a high school senior, she chose to recognize her mother, Jennifer Reynolds, a kindergarten teacher at Sidway Elementary School during the PTA Council’s Celebration of Inspiration program, held on April 28 at Grand Island High School.

“She was not only my first teacher in pre-K, but she continues to teach me new things every day. She is one of the reasons I love coming to school every single day. Mom, you continuously teach me new things, making me a better person every single day. No matter the struggles we have faced, you have never left my side, continuously encouraging me, and I am thankful for that,” Caralyn said.

Jennifer said, “Caralyn, you are the true inspiration. Your light shines brighter than you can possibly imagine. I can see your perseverance, wisdom, and faith far beyond your years. You trust in the unknown. You are kind and courageous. We are so very proud of you. You have inspired me.”

According to Sandra Cohen, who has participated in organizing the Celebration of Inspiration for the past five years, “Every year, there is a student-parent coupling. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that because, if your parent has the honor of teaching you, and they made a wonderful impact on you, that’s fantastic. And, as Mrs. Reynolds said, at first she felt a little uneasy about it because why was she (Caralyn) picking her mom but then she realized, this was a higher honor than anyone else because ‘she could have picked anyone else, but she picked me.’”

Cohen explained, “This (program) takes a more intimate step, and it takes a little life of its own. The emotions involved and the vulnerability of each person that goes up there. As someone said, it really takes courage to go up there and speak so vulnerably and rawly and intimately about what you feel about that other person and the teacher being able to communicate that back to the student. What other program does this? I’ve never known this until I came into this district. None of the schools that I attended ever did anything like that. It’s so different and so unique. You just have to cherish it.”

Forty-one students nominated 33 teachers, coaches and other staff members. According to Cohen, any staff member working in the Grand Island Central School District is eligible for the honor. “We’ve had bus drivers in the past and cafeteria workers. It really depends on who the people nominate. It’s open to any Grand Island Central School district employee, not just teachers.” In addition, any high school senior is eligible to choose one person to honor as an inspiration. Each student speaks to the person who inspired them, and each honoree responds.

From students:

•“Inspiration prompts human imagination.”

•Mr. (Shawn) Sweet “is by far the best teacher any of us have ever had. He’s the main reason I’ve decided to pursue a career in technical education, just like him. He’s guided me on so many projects, inspired me in a way that no one else has. I can only hope to be as good a teacher as him when I become one.”

•“Thank you for being the best role model that I could ask for. You have taught me so many lessons that will guide me through my future career. We have made countless memories that I will cherish forever. You have truly inspired me to be just like you some day. I hope that, one day, I can be half as good a teacher as you are.”

•“I’ve always wanted to make and design things since I was young. Whenever someone asked me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would say that I wanted to be an inventor and make things. When I entered middle school, that passion for design and creation started to die down until I met Mr. (George) Smith. No other teacher had ever inspired me to put so much effort and passion into the things that I created.”

•“When I become a teacher one day, I can only hope to be as big of an inspiration to my students as you were to me. I will remind them that they are doing the things that they are passionate about, simply because they love it.”

•“You have been more than a teacher. You are my inspiration, my friend, and my mentor.”

•“She’s excited and passionate about what she’s teaching.”

•“Viking Vision was more than a creative outlet for us. It provided us with some of the biggest life lessons. Mistakes happen.”

From teachers:

•“I think the next newscast, we can just do live because that was flawless. Honestly, I am so proud. Thank you so much, Grace and Kaylee. This means so much to me.”

•“Teaching is my passion. I love my job. Not only do my students learn from me, I learn from them.”

•“I have the privilege of being the teacher who loves what she does. The students that we teach bring us such joy and allow us to do what we love every single day.”

•“I have the privilege of being the teacher who loves what she does. The students that we teach bring us such joy and allow us to do what we love every single day.”

Cohen said that this program is something that the PTA Council, which is made up of representatives from all of the town’s public schools, is very proud. “It's a phenomenal program, and I’m glad Grand Island took it under its wings 30 years ago (when it was founded by Dr. Paul Fields). I’m sure that there’s many more wonderful editions to come, as more people get involved. I know that there’s already a few people thinking about it for next year. I know a lot of people were thanking the PTSA, but it really is from the Council. The Council is very proud of it, and I know they have all intentions of keeping this going.”

Photos courtesy of Grand Island High School

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