At the June 25 Fair Haven Board of Education meeting, administration, parents, and students from Viola L. Sickles School honored teacher Lynn Wheeler for her 25 years of teaching service, while also welcoming Cheryl Cuddihy as the new principal for the 2014-2015 school year.
Superintendent Nelson Ribon recognized Wheeler's retirement "with regret", while thanking her for all of her years of service at Sickles School. PTA President Jennie Lucci and students Alyssa Lucci, 9, and Nicholas Calabretta, 10, presented Wheeler with cards and gifts while speaking of her tremendous impact at the school.
"You are absolutely an amazing teacher and friend," Lucci said. "From personal experience, I can tell you that this is a tough loss for us and you will be greatly missed."
Lucci read several quotes from former and present students as well as parents and other teachers, describing Wheeler: " 'Awesome; best teacher ever; respected; friend; mentor.'
"We can't say enough about you. We can only hope that your retirement will be as good for you as you have been to our children," Lucci said, while also thanking Wheeler for her support and involvement with the Fair Haven PTA during her years of teaching.
Her students then took time to honor her by reading from posters and cards that had been made for her. Calabretta told Wheeler, "Thank you for making 3rd grade so enjoyable for me. I'll really miss you. Thank you for teaching me great things."
Alyssa Lucci, hugging Ms. Wheeler, told her, "Thank you for being a great educator. You are wonderful, lovely, helpful and exciting, and I will miss you!"
Wheeler thanked her students and Lucci, and addressed the large audience at the meeting, stating it had been a "pleasure to teach here for 25 years". Wheeler stated her fondest memory of teaching at Sickles as: "teaching the students, and everything they taught me. Every day was a new experience, and I will miss being with the children each day."
The Board of Education then welcomes Cheryl Cuddihy as the new principal of Sickles School. Superintendent Ribon introduced Cuddihy to the large crowd of parents and teachers at the meeting by describing his experiences and interactions with Cuddihy.
"I spent a lot of time speaking to her one on one, as well as watching her interact with students and staff at Sickles. You can find out a lot about a person in conversation, but when you put them in the environment they're going to be working in or around, you truly see who they are. It left zero doubt in my mind that she belongs around children."
Ribon also said what he had learned about Cuddihy during the lengthy interview and hiring process. "Everyone I spoke to has the same feelings about her. One parent said, 'She's a bundle of energy, and it's contagious,' after watching her interact with children."
Cuddihy, a Middletown resident, most recently worked as the Vice Principal and ELL (English Language Learner) World Languages Supervisor of Red Bank Primary School. Prior to this position, Ribon shared that Cuddihy had worked in Middletown Township as a kindergarten, 1st, 2nd, and 4th grade teacher.
"I spoke to both of the superintendents in Red Bank and Middletown," Ribon said. "Both were consistent in describing who Cheryl is for me: 'You found a gem'; 'brilliant'; 'a dynamo'. She was also called a pioneer for her tremendous work during Middletown's transformation of its curriculum.
"It is my honor to welcome you to the Fair Haven School District and the Sickles School," Ribon said.
Cuddihy then thanked everyone for welcoming her, including parents and teachers of Fair Haven she had already met, two teachers she worked with in Red Bank, and her family in attendance to honor her. "I'm looking forward to what is in store for Fair Haven, and a fantastic year."
In answer to what she hopes to bring to the Sickles School in the coming year, Cuddihy said, "I hope to cultivate morale for students, parents, and staff, while focusing on getting the building ready for the fall. In addition, I want to have parent information nights to address the curriculum, and enrich more project-based learning for the students with partnerships we will build with the community."
As both a mother and an educator, Cuddihy said that the most important part of a child's education, in her opinion, is about "how you make the student feel; when a child feels safe, secure, and confident, this is when they really learn the best. What I really want to encourage at Sickles is an environment where we show compassion. We can teach a student what they need to learn, while also teaching them how to be good citizens."
The Board of Education then presented both Wheeler and Cuddihy each with a cake, and the meeting paused for a few moments for both educators to serve slices to all in attendance while having a chance to speak to each person individually.
Cuddihy summed up the general consensus among all of the administrators, teachers, and parents who attended the meeting by stating, "I'm really excited; the next school year will be a lot of positive growth and changes for the Fair Haven Schools and students."