By Celina Sun
Contrary to popular belief, teachers are not out to make students’ lives miserable. Mr. Michael Rafferty, South’s newest Special Education teacher, is no exception. A man who wants to make a difference, Mr. Rafferty became a teacher so that he could positively change students’ lives.
His desire to provide students with extra help led him to teach Special Education—a field that he believes is rife with opportunities to collaborate with students. Having previously taught English and science at Springfield Massachusetts High School for Science and Technology, Mr. Rafferty is now going on his fourth year of instruction. At South, he teaches resource room and biology, which is his favorite subject because it presents many chances to interact with students.
Mr. Rafferty—already adjusted to Rebel life—has found South’s students and faculty friendly and helpful. He aims to get to know his students better so that he can create engaging and interesting lessons.
Outside of school, Mr. Rafferty has interests similar to those of South’s student body. Having wrestled and played football in high school, Mr. Rafferty enjoys sports, the outdoors, and often goes hiking with his bull terrier, Toby. Mr. Rafferty has recently caught up on Breaking Bad, a T.V. show that many students at South seem to like, and was looking forward to the season finale. With interests that are relatable and a dedication that is admirable, Mr. Rafferty is a teacher who can make a difference.
By Michelle Yang
Ms. Jamie Melendez’s career in math began nine years ago when she started teaching at a private school. Two years later, she moved to teach at Great Neck North. Now, in addition to teaching at North, she teaches pre-calculus at South.
Ms. Melendez had wanted to be a math teacher ever since she was a student. She was motivated by excellent teachers, who inspired her, and by not-so-excellent teachers, who made her think: “I can explain it better than they can.”
But when she went to college, she focused on preparing for a career in business. Ms. Melendez had thought teaching would be too cyclical and didn’t want to do the same work everyday. She worked in sales and marketing for four years; at one point she worked for Paramount in the TV sales department. Ms. Melendez enjoyed her work but found that it didn’t give her enough fulfillment and satisfaction.
So Ms. Melendez changed careers and went back to school. She got a master’s degree and spent two years building up her education background. “I don’t regret it for a minute; it was the greatest decision I made.”
Now that she is a teacher, Ms. Melendez knows teaching isn’t cyclical at all. Everyday is different. She likes the interaction with students and finds it fun to watch students grasp concepts. She finds teaching challenging but rewarding. Ms. Melendez acknowledges that not every student will like math, but she views it as part of her job to encourage all students to do the best they can.
Apart from teaching, Ms. Melendez enjoys running. She has an 8-year-old son, a 6-year-old daughter, 2-and-a-half-year-old twins, and is expecting another baby in December.
By Robin Shum
Mrs. Malka Rahmanan has been living in Great Neck for 45 years and has spent 15 of those years working as a social worker. Born in Iraq, Mrs. Rahmanan came to America as an infant. Helping others has been a major part of Mrs. Rahmanan’s life. Ever since she worked for a crisis hotline in college, she knew she wanted to have a career devoted to helping others. Thus, she became a speech pathologist working in preschools for speech-impaired children. Afterwards, she moved on to elementary schools John F. Kennedy and Lakeville. This year is her first time working with high school students.
In addition to her work as a social worker, Mrs. Rahmanan has several hobbies. Recently, she has been trying to get in touch with her Persian background by learning how to cook traditional Persian food. She enjoys cooking, writing, and visiting art museums. In college, Mrs. Rahmanan was also on her school’s newspaper, interviewing various people on campus and covering school events. This summer, she toured various museums in New York City, including the Guggenheim and Museum of Modern Art. She loves art and is now learning more about modern art.
Working with high school students has given Ms. Rahmanan a new perspective on being a social worker. “I’m getting to work with students who I saw in elementary school, and I see them now in the halls and they’re young adults,” she said. “I love it.”
By Claudia B.
Ms. Eileen Mangiacapre has a long history in Great Neck; she grew up here and her family has lived here since 1938. Until this year, she taught Spanish only at South Middle. Now, she travels from the middle school to teach her high school class.
She was inspired by her own Spanish teacher’s relaxed style of teaching to create a comfortable environment in her own classroom. One of her goals is to encourage her students to be as honest with her as she is with them.
Ms. Mangiacapre is an entertaining storyteller and uses her stories as a teaching strategy. She looks forward to being with students and sharing the energy, ideas, and joys they bring to life.
She also wants to take the time to acknowledge any and every child that comes into her classroom. Her philosophy is that students should be accepted no matter who they are and that every student matters.