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SHS PTA Toasts Retiring Staffers

retireecakeOn Monday June 20, the SHS PTA arranged a small celebration for a group of veteran staffers who will retire at the end of the school year. Well-loved and well known, these teachers and Assistant Principal Sue Peppers have had an impact on the thousands of students they have taught. The PTA ordered a cake bearing pictures of the teachers as they were when they came to the school years ago – and PTA President Margaret Smith gave lovely – and sometimes amusing --tributes to each one. We can't say it any better than she did – so below are her remarks to the nine retirees who have been at the school for a collective 257 years.

Here are Margaret Smith's remarks:

Good afternoon. I would like to welcome everyone here and thank you all for coming to celebrate our retirees and wish them well as they are about to embark on a new phase of their lives. I would like to introduce them to everyone now, as none of us, I believe, has had the pleasure of knowing all of them as teachers to our own kids. When I call your name, could you please stand?

Larry Brown
Roger Cappucci
Sandra Cisco
Tom Conrad
Ann Liptak
Sue Peppers
Paul Sheehey
Beth Schoenbrun
Ihor Szkolar


Welcome to each of you.
This is the part of the school year that I have come to dread. Not because I have to give retirement speeches, but because I really feel an aversion to saying goodbye at the end of the year. This has been the case since my kids were in grade school. I think it's because, no matter how exciting the next stage promises to be, we must loosen valued connections that we have formed through time and teamwork over the course of the school year. Those precious relationships will lodge in our hearts and our memories, never to be replicated, though others will take their place in our lives over time. That's how I feel again this year, and for nine good reasons, all standing in front of us in this room. Furthermore, I myself am retiring this year, as my youngest child is graduating this Friday. My retirement, however, is not really a matter of choice; it's more like I'm being asked to leave.

Today, we are celebrating the relationships we have had and the contributions that have been made by eight of our educators and one educator-turned-administrator who have been with us for a collective 257 years! Wow! Their individual years of service range from 13 for someone who made teaching his encore act, to a whopping 50 for a teacher who devoted his all to the multiple generations of students who came through his doors. Together, I conservatively estimate that they have taught more than 27,000 students. That's like teaching all of Scarsdale one and half times over. And think of the ripple effect of their teaching!

The Scarsdale community is unique in that so many people who have students in the school system were themselves students here. This is not the case in many other locales. In my own experience, I grew up in a small town in southern Minnesota, and I was ready to leave upon high school graduation, with no intention of returning to settle down and raise a family when the time came. My husband and I chose Scarsdale for two very good reasons. One was that his golf club was situated here. Hey, that's as good a reason as any when you don't yet have children. The other one, of course, was the sterling reputation of the schools. Our retirees today are some of the very people upon whom that reputation was built. Mr. Cappucci, with 50 years of teaching at Scarsdale to his credit, Mr. Sheehy, with 37 years under his belt, Mr. Conrad with 36, just to name a few of those we honor today, were some of the teachers that erstwhile Scarsdale grads surely thought of when it was time for them to pick a community in which to raise their families. And they chose to return to Scarsdale to put their own children into the hands of these very teachers. What a vote of confidence! And so well deserved, proven out again and again.

Not everyone who wished to be here today could be, and so I have gathered up some reminiscences and comments from your current and former students, and some of their parents, who can really show us the kind of exemplary teachers you have been in the classroom and in the school as a whole. I would like to share them with you now.

Laurence Brown
Larry, you have been at Scarsdale High School for 13 years, having previously enjoyed a successful career in the financial industry. You brought a real-world sensibility to your classroom, as well as acting as a class advisor to numerous classes and being a faculty member on the PTA Executive board. Here's what some of your students and their parents had to say:

Larry Brown is one of the most caring teachers at SHS. He absolutely loves his kids and he is personally invested in them both as scholars and people. He is a mentor as well as a friend and is a one of a kind teacher. Larry makes this school fun and he will be sorely missed.

Mr. Brown was, simply but truly, an extraordinary teacher. He made me feel like I could do anything, and be anything. He made policy discussions come alive. He taught us and pushed us, and he made us want to teach and push ourselves.

Larry, thank you, from the bottom of my heart. Thank you for your wicked sense of humor. Thank you for believing in us. Thank you for bringing it every day. More than any other high school teacher (probably any teacher, period), you have made me the person I am today. God bless you and your family - you will be missed.

Mr Brown truly devoted himself to the class of 2016 and was always such a positive and proactive force. During High School Musical he was absolutely beaming, laughed out loud and might have had tears of happiness once or twice. He was such a key in our kids' lives and development. Thank you!

Roger Cappucci
Roger, you are an institution at Scarsdale, with 50 years of teaching to your credit. People with whom I serve on various committees who had you as a teacher can still recite your formula for differential equations. Here are a few comments from your past students.

Having Mr. Capucci as a teacher was one of the best experiences I had at SHS!
He was the only teacher who could make calculus both academic and captivating for my class.

I will remember Mr. Capucci not just for his amazing talent of teaching, but also for his generous and kind heart.

Mr. Cappucci is so enthusiastic and always wants to make sure the student is achieving his best. In class he would always write something on the board and then point to something outside so that we would all look away and then he would finish the equation on the board so that it was finished when we turned around.

Sandra Cisco
Sandra, you bring the foreign and exotic into the school and make it part of the students' daily living experience. You have graced these halls for 22 years, and your students are a most appreciative lot.

Senora Cisco truly cares about her students' well being. When I passed out in her class she literally caught me before I fell on the floor and revived me. I've never felt so prepared for a test as I felt for the final in her class. She was always willing to help out if you asked for help. She's like everyone's mom. I frequently stayed to chat with her through lunch because she's so interesting and fun and I loved talking to her.

She was very funny and enthusiastic and she made every class fun. She would always dance and sing and get the students engaged in the lesson.

She was one of the best teachers my son ever had. He had her two years ago and still remembers the trabelanguas (the Spanish tongue twisters). He can still recite them two years later! It was a great year and he thanks her for her dedication and wishes her well.

Senora Cisco is amazing! She is the best Spanish teacher I have ever had. She makes Spanish super fun. She really cares about her students and wants them to succeed.

I found Spanish to be a very challenging class and Senora Cisco provided me with time and patience to help me reach my potential. I will never forget how hard her class was but she gave me the tools to succeed.

Tom Conrad
Tom, you have been on the Science faculty for 36 years. Besides your classroom service, you have been a long-standing presence on the Compact Committee, helping the High School deliver the best education in every way to the students who pass through the doors. Here are a few memories from your students.

Mr. Conrad was a calm and supportive presence in the often anxiety-ridden halls of SHS.

Mr. Conrad was such a clear and methodical teacher. The more teachers and professors I have had since him, the more I realize how rare and important that is.

He showed us a movie about the atomic bomb, which helped us understand the topic better. Whenever we were learning a topic you could tell how passionate he was about his subject.

Ann Liptak
Ann, you have been at the High School for 22 years. In that time, besides shining in the classroom, you have been the English Department Chair, overseeing the delivery of English instruction to literally every student in the High School. You have also been a class advisor, most recently for the seniors this year, helping kids knit together as a class and marshaling them forward on their paths to seniorhood and graduation. Here are a few comments from some of your students.

Mrs. Liptak was (and, I imagine, remains) a total boss.

Ms. Liptak's classroom was always a fun and dynamic place, and she helped make Gibbs Civ. Ed. into a magical social and educational oasis. Life does not get much better than the quirky bonding of the Gibbs Civ. Ed. trip. English teachers do not get much better than Ann Liptak.

Sue Peppers
Sue, in your 28 years at Scarsdale High School, you have been a social studies teacher and an administrator, getting into the weeds with the kids in the classroom, then soaring at thirty thousand feet to work with the whole population. You have also been a mother of SHS students, so you have filled many stakeholder roles at the school. Here are a few comments from parents and students.

I have worked with Sue on various committees over the years. She is always attentive to parent concerns and represents everyone's interests. She listens carefully, follows up dutifully, and always greets me with a smile. When she taught my child, she always had positive things to say about her. Sue makes everything she does look easy, but I know she puts significant time and effort into every task. I wish her well in her retirement.

Sue she and her husband, Jerry, were involved in Maroon & White when their daughters were athletes at the HS. About 12 years ago, they established the Peppers family awards, which are given each year to one male and one female graduating senior who exhibit excellence in both athletics and academics. The Peppers award is highly regarded by students and families. Sue and Jerry fund the award each year (there is a small scholarship for each winner), and are always present at the awards ceremony in June to deliver them to the receiving students. This is yet another way Sue shows her dedication to Scarsdale High School.

I had Ms. Peppers for 10th grade social studies. As a teacher, Ms. Peppers inspired us to think outside the box. She was always a warm face to say hello to in the hallways, and someone I really enjoyed learning from. I wish her a very happy retirement.

The year John Klemme retired was a difficult one for SHS Administrators. As PTA President at the time, I saw firsthand how Sue calmly grounded the school to keep it running smoothly. She stepped in to various new roles with true leadership and made things happen. It seemed like things were running themselves, but that was not the case. A lot of it was Sue.

I remember going on the orchestra trip with Assistant Principal Peppers and trying new foods with her. It was a cool experience to spend time with her outside a school environment and see how adventurous she was. I will always remember her for her love of exploring new cultures.

Paul Sheehey
Paul, your tenure at SHS spans 37 years, second only to Mr. Cappucci's among this year's retirees. In that time, you have made your English classes sit up and take notice. Your inspiration can be heard in the comments of some of your past students.

Mr. Sheehey likes to act out the voices in the books we read. I know more vocab words because of him. The tests were so hard with analogies and antonyms and synonyms but we'll be thankful for them later.

I really liked going to Mr. Sheehey's class. He brought a sense of humor to the classroom. He always came up with funny, quirky names for our writing assignments. For Macbeth, the name of the assignment was "Hell is Murky - Bring a Flashlight." For a short story called "A&P" the assignment was entitled, "Where Have You Been? At the A&P, Buying Herring Snacks?"

He's a very smart teacher, and always has been approachable and easy to talk to. I know he cared deeply about his subject, and would often end class leaving us with very profound thoughts to contemplate for the remainder of our school day.

Mr. Sheehey's class was always a part of the day I looked forward to. He is a great teacher with a great sense of humor and he taught me how to be a better writer. I learned so many vocabulary words from his grammar tests that I was very appreciative when the SATs rolled around. He always says 'hello' when I see him in the hallways. He really cares about his students and he will be missed at Scarsdale High School!

As someone who never cared much about English I realized that Mr. Sheehey had an innate ability to engage even the least curious student through humor, insightful comments and historical quips Hands down the best English teacher I ever had.

The most interesting man I have ever met. He has such an appreciation for life and has done some crazy things in his past (from living in different countries to his work experiences). He is not only a great teacher with a fresh perspective but a great mentor and friend to all his students. I wish him great luck in the future and I know he'll be doing some adventurous things. SHS was lucky to have him.

Loved his floral jackets. Pretty convinced he was in the CIA based on the stories he would tell us about his travels around the world

Beth Schoenbrun
Beth, you have been in the Science Department teaching for the past 20 years, lighting the lamp of curiosity and drive for more than 2000 students in that time. Furthermore, you have been an advisor to the Science Research class, where you have mentored great numbers of future scientists who are now making important contributions to our scientific knowledge at the university level and beyond. Here is what a parent and some of your students had to say about your tuition.

Beth Schoenbrun was the most influential teacher in our son's high school experience. She gave 100% to her students and then more. Her encouragement and pure love of science inspired our son to want to pursue a career in this field. We will be forever grateful to her.

Ms. Schoenbrun was always willing to meet with you after class and really wanted to help. She was very enthusiastic about her subject.

I recall her AP bio class and dissecting a pig. I'll never forget that Ms Schoenbrun pushed me out of my comfort Zone to try new things. I am very thankful for that.

Looking back on my experiences with Ms. Schoenbrun, I am reminded of her adoration for her pugs and, of course, her intense love of the color purple. More important, I remember her as a teacher who was really passionate in seeing her students succeed. I had both AP bio and Science Research with her, so I became familiar with how seriously she took academics. In both, she demanded nothing but the highest quality of learning. And while I admit that she and I butted heads on how to go about second semester senior year, I remember how genuinely happy she was when a fellow student won at WESEF, how proud she was when another accepted his award, and how her eyes would light up when speaking about the accomplishments of yet another. She was a teacher with her own brand of tough, but deep love that remains years after you've left her classroom. But she was also much more than a teacher. She was a great mentor. I remember sitting in her office after having missed two weeks of class for a personal problem. Instead of reprimanding me or simply filling me in on what I missed, she sat me down and asked what happened. The only thing she cared about in that interaction was how I was doing. I will never forget that. I will never forget how supportive she was in a time that was so full of personal strife. Years later, I remember the lessons she taught us about mitochondria and cell membranes, but much, much more importantly, I remember her as a teacher who unequivocally put her students first; who demanded hard work because she knew we were capable of being more; whose dedication in and out of the classroom represents the best aspects of a mentor.

Ihor Szkolar
Ihor, you have been at Scarsdale High School for 29 years, bringing the light of day to the often obscure subject of chemistry and other aspects of science. Your students are devoted to you, as we can hear in the following comments.

The cutest man alive!

Once a kid was talking during class and someone said, "Mr. Szkolar aren't you going to get mad? And he said, 'How could I get mad at any of my students?' "

He is the best person. He's always smiling and laughing.

Mr. Szkolar was so kind. When I had trouble with chemistry, he really helped me and made me feel comfortable in the subject. He helped me turn my grade around. I still miss him, even though it has been a few years since I worked with him.

Mr. Szkolar is a really genuine, nice guy. He knows how to connect with students.

So many students have been touched by each of you, in the classroom and outside of it. I hope you take joy and pride in these comments and cherish and remember them even as you are pursuing fresh interests in retirement. Know that the time you spent here was a blessing to so many who passed through your classrooms. We wish you the very best in your new walks of life and hope that you will come back for a visit once in a while. And now, I invite everyone to continue to enjoy the refreshments and to visit personally with our retirees. Thank you all for being here, and have a wonderful summer.


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