The month of May in upstate New York reminds me of the cycle of life – the flowers bloom, the grass turns green and we enjoy warmer weather and activities outside again. In public education, it is also a time to start to wind down the school year and participate in activities and events perhaps for the first time.

This happens often for students – first-time science-fairs, musicals, concerts, sports, graduations, proms, field trips and awards as well as first-time taking school exams or driving tests, receiving and accepting a job or college offer, and much more.

At Questar III, we also had this opportunity during the school year as we launched new initiatives or events. We launched a new Heavy Equipment Operation and Maintenance program housed at Durham Elementary School in Greene County and a new Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) program at Columbia-Greene Educational Center in Hudson. These two programs will expand the learning opportunities for students in our region. We also had our Education Foundation’s first-ever Learn & Prosper Gala, which raised close to $30,000. These funds will support students’ educational opportunities based on criteria to be set forth by the Education Foundation Board.

This month, we also initiated and launched two new events, which based on their success, will continue in the years ahead. On May 8th, we held two different events that celebrated our wonderful profession and our considerable impact on the lives of students.

At the Desmond Hotel in Albany, Questar III held the Celebration of Teaching and Learning. More than 150 educators, related service providers, administrators and students interested in pursuing a career in education attended this inaugural event. It was specifically designed to not only honor exceptional educators in our BOCES region but also introduce high school students in Rensselaer, Columbia and Greene counties to various careers and careers paths in education. Forty teachers from 18 school districts and the BOCES were nominated to attend and recognized at the event, which coincided with National Teacher Appreciation Week.

At Rensselaer Educational Center in Troy, we participated for the first time in the National Signing Day, partnering with SkillsUSA and Klein Tools to honor students pursuing careers and education in a skilled trade. Similar to the National Signing Day events for high school athletes, seniors in our Construction and HVAC career-tech programs were recognized as they signed their “letters of intent” for job offers, apprenticeships and advanced post-secondary technical training. Students received a signing kit from Klein Tools, which included a hat, t-shirt, backpack and their first pair of Klein Tool pliers to begin their lifelong careers.

To me, these two events demonstrated the power of teaching and learning, and the impact educators have on the students that they reach. Like you, two variables shaped my life – my parents and family, and my teachers and schools. These two institutions provided safe and supportive environments where I could seek facts and truths, collaborate, set goals, take calculated risks and learn. I fondly remember many teachers who advocated for me, believed in me, and reminded me that I could be whatever I wanted. Five decades later, their impact is still felt.

On behalf of our school board members and superintendents, I wish to thank our local educators for their important work in shaping the lives of our students. Their work and influence will with no doubt continue to pay dividends over the course of our students’ lives. As author and playwright Thomas Wolfe once said, “I put the relation of a fine teacher to a student just below the relation of a mother to a son.” Continue to celebrate teaching and learning and the long-term impact that you have on the students that fill your classrooms every day as the school year comes to an end and remember sometimes we may never know the true impact we have made.

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