Herkimer Central School District said goodbye to five longtime employees at the close of the 2018-19 school year who made a lasting impression on generations of students.
Taken together, Mr. Zaleski, Mr. Steele, Mrs. Schoff, Mrs. Snyder and Mrs. Martyniuk put in more than 140 years of combined service to the school district, with each retiree having served for more than two decades and some, more than three.
In 1986, the cost of a gallon of gas was 89 cents, the first Nintendo video game systems were sold across the United States, and Timothy Zaleski reported for his first day of work at Herkimer High School.
As the youngest teacher on the staff, Mr. Zaleski was fortunate to learn at the feet of his older peers. “I had great mentors as a coach,” Mr. Zaleski explained, naming Mohawk Valley Baseball Hall of Famers Maynard Blask and Larry Hughes, and football coach John McMahon, among them.
“I’ve always enjoyed great memories, both on and off the field,” Mr. Zaleski recalled.
But when fall rolls around, this veteran teacher will have the chance to create some new memories.
“For 50 years, my life has revolved around the school calendar, and now it won’t,” Mr. Zaleski pointed out, saying he is looking forward to traveling this fall and spending that time with his family.
In 1989, HTML was invented, the Berlin Wall fell, and Alan Steele began his teaching and coaching career at Herkimer.
Mr. Steele said he always wanted to be a P.E. teacher, and that he wouldn’t change a thing about the career that he has had.
Like Mr. Zaleski, he started out teaching at a different school building than the one that currently houses the Jr./Sr. High School, but said the new building and other improvements have been a step up — like when the new athletic fields were put in place, allowing the football team to play Friday night games under the lights.
“I’ve loved my job, and I love teaching the kids,” Mr. Steele said.
Another 30-year veteran of Herkimer is Sarah Schoff, but teaching wasn’t even her first career — it was her second.
Sheila Steere, who gave a speech honoring Mrs. Schoff at the Herkimer Elementary faculty luncheon on the last day of school, said Mrs. Schoff will be remembered as hard-working, dedicated and fun-loving.
“She’s a gamer,” Mrs. Steere said of her longtime colleague and fellow third-grade teacher. “She’s all in on whatever it is, especially if it’s for the kids — dress-up days, decorations, you name it.”
In tribute to Mrs. Schoff’s favorite character, SpongeBob SquarePants, the farewell luncheon will feature SpongeBob decorations and pineapple table-toppers.
While Mrs. Schoff will be missed, Mrs. Steere joked that the longtime teacher will be glad to be able to take more time for things like cleaning her house, mowing the lawn and getting ready for the holidays.
“She’s always been such a great colleague — you know she’s always got your back, and she’s always done her best for her students,” Mrs. Steere said.
In 1994, Justin Bieber was born, the Beanie Babies craze began, and so did Lynn Snyder’s career at Herkimer High School.
Mrs. Snyder had been a student teacher at Mt. Markham Central School alongside Mrs. Tomaso, and came to teach at Herkimer when a position opened up at the high school, but she switched to teaching junior high classes after a few years.
Mrs. Snyder said the school has been a supportive environment for her as a teacher, and one where she and her fellow seventh-grade teachers have tried hard to support their students in turn.
“I feel blessed,” Mrs. Snyder said of her time at Herkimer, adding that she hopes her students will remember her as someone who cared about them as people.
“You never know what difference you are going to make in someone’s day,” Mrs. Snyder noted. “I always told my students that I hope they have a good day, because you never know who might need to hear that.”
1996 saw the introduction of Tickle Me Elmo and the Oprah Book Club — and Sharon Martyniuk was introduced as a new lunch monitor at Herkimer.
“She was just going to do it for a little while,” Mrs. Tomaso recalled.
The school lunch process was very different at that time than it is now, with the school ordering in pizzas to serve at lunchtime.
But even as the process changed, Mrs. Martyniuk was always someone who would go above and beyond for students.
“She looked out for them like they were her own kids,” Mrs. Tomaso said. “She got to know them, and talked to them about what was going on in their lives.”
We wish all our retirees the very best in retirement. You will be missed, but you have earned it!