While 350 seniors prepped for the biggest day of their academic careers and 1,000 more kicked off summer vacation, the group of people tasked with molding those young minds celebrated each other.
West Morris Central held its annual end-of-the-year luncheon and Wall of Fame Ceremony recently, honoring retirees and three former faculty members who made a lasting impression on the school during their respective careers.
Teaching every level of math throughout her career, which spanned from 1969 to 2003, Karen McCloskey was the first retiree to be honored with a plaque to be displayed on the school’s Wall of Fame.
“She was a consummate professional and a role model,” former Central math teacher Judy Bower said about her colleague. Laughing, Bower continued, “One student told me [Karen] scared the math into him.”
McCloskey was gracious in accepting her award, telling her successors to “continue the good work” that goes on inside Central’s classrooms.
“I enjoyed every minute in the classroom,” she said of her more-than-30-year career.
Former physical education department teacher and multisport coach Jim Nordstrom was the second honoree, but was unable to be in attendance. His former colleagues, retiree Bruce Campbell and current football coach Kevin Hennelly spoke about their experiences working with Nordstrom.
Nordstrom is credited with the creation of the girls soccer program, fencing program, girls volleyball program, and the boys ice hockey program.
“He was a professional,” Campbell said. “And he was always loyal. If we ever needed anything, Jim was there to help.”
Hennelly recounted his early days as both an educator and a coach, saying he learned how to keep his calm and transfer that to the student-athletes.
“When I came in I was like a bull in a China shop,” Hennelly said. “Jim would sit me down and remind me to think of what’s best for the kid. He’d say, ‘When you’re done speaking with a student, how is he going to feel? That’s what he’ll remember.’”
The final Wall of Fame inductee was also the most recent retiree, leaving the school in 2012.
Randy Evans, who began as a guidance counselor in 1995 and ended his tenure as the head of the department was credited with starting some of the school’s most important programs that occurred outside the classroom.
The REACH program, which brought current 11th graders to the Long Valley Middle School to speak with and familiarize the eighth graders with high school life, was Evans’ brainchild. Expanding on that program was the implementation of the Project Adventure course in the rear of the school, which is now a component of both physical education and the REACH program.
Evans was also credited with expanding the scope of the winter semi-formal event to include more students and involve more themes.
“That Project Adventure course was the sole labor and love of Randy Evans,” said former principal Gil Moscatello. “Randy is a doer. Not only would he come up with a solution, but he would get it done.”
Moscatello also mentioned the scope of Evans’ duties included the simultaneous overseeing of Bartley Academy as well as the International Baccalaureate program.
“The quality of my life is because of all of you who are in it,” Evans told current and former faculty members. “Something about hearing our alma mater… it’s magical, and powerful.”
Wall of Fame inductees were voted on by 25 current and former faculty members and must have served a minimum of 15 years in education; be a retiree of West Morris Central; and have received recognition from the school and colleagues.
Retirees included Judy Gearhardt, a custodian for the school; art teacher and multisport coach Peter Angus; English teacher Ralph Caiazzo; English teacher Anna Lynch; and Math teacher Lynn Obermiller, who also received the Distinguished Educator Award from her fellow faculty members.
Obermiller, who has taught at the school for 40 years, tearfully said goodbye to her colleagues, saying, “This is my home and family, and I’m truly going to miss you.”