Going Out in Style!

Foundational Pillars of Education Bid BHS Goodbye After Years of Dedication to Their Craft


With graduation and summer now in our sights, we will soon be sending the class of 2018 into the world as best prepared as we could make them, but who are those who worked so diligently to ready them? You’d be hard-pressed to find a senior who wasn’t affected by this group of six retirees. This year we will be saying goodbye to six enormous influences among Brewster’s faculty: Mrs. Edleson, Mrs. McIlvenna, Ms. McLeod, Mrs. Migliaccio, Dr. Murray, and Mrs. Wool, all of whom we’ve had the pleasure of interviewing here. We will miss them. We wish them wonderful retirements.

Mary Edleson – Science

as interviewed by Hannah Wilson

HW: Mrs. Edleson, what inspired you to be a teacher?

ME: I had some really good teachers in school and I just loved being there; I loved school and knew I wanted to be in a classroom.

HW: Where did you start out in getting your education?

ME: I graduated from Yorktown High School, got my undergraduate degree from Mercy College, and got my Master’s degree from Manhattanville College. I’m a local girl.

HW: Have you always been a teacher?

ME: I was a research chemist for ten years because everyone told me there were no good jobs for teacher, so I found this research job and got a little sidetracked for ten years. But I never lost the desire to teach – I wanted to be in a classroom. I’ve been teaching for twenty-eight years. I’ve been in Brewster for twenty years where I began as a science teacher.

HW: What can you tell us about the highlights of your career in teaching?

ME: I think it would be the year that my daughter was a freshman here and I taught so many of her friends. I had been a Girl Scout leader for some of them; I knew others because they swam with Kristi…I knew so many of them so well, it was kind of like a big family. That was probably the best year for me.

HW: What will you miss most about teaching science?

ME: Probably just being in the classroom. I love being around young people – I believe that is what keeps a person young. And I will miss trying to transfer knowledge about really tough subjects. I love having a really challenging subject to teach and having to break it apart so that students get it. And then we get to the “Aha!” moment – the moment when the light bulb goes on, I’ll miss that a lot. But I have to say, over the years I co-taught with Sarah Barnes and Renee Acquisto. They influenced my teaching significantly. They understand their students so well and they taught me how those students learn. They have taught me how to break down the subjects and have fun.

HW: Do you think there are lessons you have learned from your students?

ME: Well, I’m not sure if we can classify this as a lesson, but I’ve learned from my students that it is necessary to have patience. (Laughing…) Although I’m not sure if my students would agree that I have patience at this time of year. Also, tolerance. Tolerance has kept me young at heart. I have to tolerate new ideas – like new music. Being with these students and trying to understand what matters to them really has kept me young at heart.

HW: What advice would you, as a veteran teacher, give to a new teacher?

ME: I would tell them right away that your first year teaching is absolutely the hardest. I’ve had a lot of student teachers over the years, and that’s what I’ve told them. We get into teaching because we want to be the best teachers we can be. And as much as they want to be here, there are so many things they have no idea will even come up. They have to be patient with themselves.

HW: Lots of people have one place where they think everyone should go. Where is that place for you?

ME: I haven’t traveled a lot. I want to see some of the places I’ve talked about in Earth Science. Places like the Grand Canyon and Alaska. In fact, I am going on a cruise to Alaska with my daughter. Just as soon as school is out.

HW: As you approach retirement, what are you looking forward to?

ME: Not being on a school schedule. I can go places when I want to go – I don’t have to wait and go when the rest of the world is on vacation; I can do things whenever I want to! I’m looking forward to playing golf – a lot of golf – I’d really like to get better at it. But I’d also like to get involved in something philanthropic. Homelessness, hunger and animal neglect trouble me. I’d like to do something to help change those troubling situations.

HW: How is your daughter, Kristi, doing?

ME: Kristi is doing great. She works in the HR department for Facebook. She LOVES her job and says she’d like to stay there for the rest of her life. When you’re doing a job that you love, that’s what happens – you want to stay there for your whole life. I’m glad for my experience in research, but I am so happy that I got to teach. It fulfilled a dream for me. There is something about walking in through the classroom door – no matter what has happened outside the class – you want to give it all that you’ve got.

And for twenty years, she has done just that. Congratulations, Mrs. Edleson – we wish you health and happiness in your next phase of life. Thank you for your dedication.

Eileen McIlvenna – Special Education

Eileen McIlvenna, affectionately known as “Mac,” has been an aide in Brewster High School for more than twenty years. She raised her family here and put her three children through the Brewster schools. One would think those accomplishments would complete her obligation…except that Mac has put many more than her three biological kids through school.

Need a piece of gum? Ask Mrs. Mac. Need a little help on your homework, or a tip in the horticulture workshop, or an answer to a culinary question? Go see Mac. Can’t find that hammer in Palmer’s? Ask Mac. It’s impossible to say just how many trips Eileen McIlvenna has made to BOCES. Almost as impossible to figure is how many miles she has logged riding on a school bus.

She has spent hours in canoes being paddled by at-risk kids in the Clearpool program, and she has hiked in the woods with them and listened to them and laughed with them. She has traveled with the kids in the Intern Program to their rotating jobs at DeCicco’s, Annie Sez, and Palmer’s Hardware (where she is known as “the Mayor”). But the time has come for her to graduate. And we can’t help but wonder how the kids who will never work with Mac will be as lucky.

When her colleagues were asked to say a few words about Eileen McIlvenna, we heard the same compliments over and over again:

“She never complains…she never has…about anything.”

“She has given 110% since the first day she walked into the building.”

“Eileen laughs all the time. She has taught me that it’s the way to get through the bad days.”

The co-liaison of the Special Education department, Jeannine Wool, said, “She’s irreplaceable. I mean it. No one else could do what Mac does and not complain about it. It doesn’t matter what job she was given to do, she never complained about it. I can’t imagine having done my job without her laughter. She doesn’t hesitate to help someone – in and out of work.”

And when we asked her sidekick, graduating senior Jenny Del Grasso (pictured on page 1), to say a few words about Mrs. Mac, she told us, “She makes me laugh, and she helps me at work.” And looking at Mrs. McIlvenna fondly, she repeated a phrase she has spoken numerous times in each day, “You and me, Mac.”

This gentle woman talked with us about the highlights of her twenty years in Brewster. “Being with the students. And laughing, every day, with the students and with the people in my department.”

She has no definite plans for retirement, but she does have a trip planned for this summer: she is going to Ireland. And in September, she is going to Montauk…because she can.

We wish Eileen McIlvenna a lifetime of happiness and we thank her for her dedication…and her laughter.

AnnMarie McLeod – Social Studies

The Bear Facts staff would like to take this opportunity to thank Ms. AnnMarie McLeod and wish her a fulfilling future. She has blessed Brewster High School with boundless generosity. The effects of her love and spirit will remain in this building – and in the entire community – forever. It is difficult to articulate the gratitude we all feel, as well as the depth of affection we have for Ms. McLeod. We hope that she will leave Brewster High School rich in the knowledge that she has changed the future through her teachings and her generousness.

We asked Ms. McLeod for her thoughts on the abundant teaching career she has enjoyed and she responded with these words:
While I was growing up, my father often spoke of how fortunate we were to be part of a family, to have a home and to be living above the poverty line. Therefore, he said, we each had a responsibility to give something back, to help others and to literally make the world a better place and life better for others. In some small way, I hoped to do that.

There were many moments in my early experience where I had the chance to work in inner city settings, in areas where poverty characterized daily life. Thinking of the families I met and the children I saw, I began to believe that the best way to help, to make a difference, was education. To me, education provides the tools that an individual needs to negotiate the intricacies of life, to find meaning and purpose as a person, to develop intellectual and financial independence and to make a positive difference in the world. I became a high school teacher and at times worked as an administrator.

Twenty three years after I graduated from Brewster High School, I returned as a social studies teacher with the hope of educating students to become leaders for the future. What I found in students was a broad continuum of gifts and experiences, a real desire to contribute to community, and genuine kindness in so many ways. There are so many moments where our students showed that they cared: they shared grief in loss, celebrated one another’s success, and worked to solve problems together. The most important things I heard were students saying were, “I never looked at it that way before” or “What can we do to help?” or “I was wondering about….” As an educator, those were moments I really appreciated.

It would be safe to say that I have learned a great deal from all of my colleagues, especially the members of the Social Studies Department. Each student and staff member here really does make a difference, and lots of times, they have reminded me that becoming a better person is a lifelong endeavor.

Years ago, in an alternative school in an urban setting, I had to go to our principal to report a fight. The students involved were brothers, their mom was very sick, and I was furious that they had attacked each other like that. When I was done relating the details telling the story, explaining just how angry I was, the principal leaned back in her chair. She looked me right in the eye and said, “Well…Can you love them when you come back tomorrow? Because if you can’t, don’t come back.” And then she dismissed me.

I was absolutely stunned: it was an invaluable lesson. She made me realize that education is not about teacher needs; it is student-centered, and it means choosing to do the right thing for students to the best of your ability in every setting. It means re-evaluating and changing and reflecting on what works and what doesn’t, learning from failures and recognizing the moments that really matter. The next day, I went back a different person and, I hope, a better teacher.

Here in Brewster, I was given the chance to be part of something greater than myself. I am extremely grateful for the gift of these years, and for the privilege of having been here.

Felicia Migliaccio – Modern Language

Felicia Migliaccio wanted to be a teacher since she was a little girl. Her desire was fulfilled after she attended St. Pius V High School in the Bronx and went on to study for her BA at Fordham University, then earning her MS from Iona College. She began to build her legacy when she came to Brewster thirty-three years ago, after four years spent teaching in Catholic and private schools in New York City. She began teaching three languages in Brewster: French, Italian and Spanish. Mrs. Migliaccio has been delighted to be a part of the growth of the Modern Language Department and cites her involvement in the Italian program as one of the highlights of her career. When she first started at Brewster, there were just two introductory-level classes offered to high school students. Inspired by student interest and community enthusiasm, the program has grown to include Italian classes taught at the middle school all the way up to a college-level course in Italian taught here at the high school.

We will miss Mrs. Migliaccio who will, in turn, miss watching her students grow. She fondly speaks of and remembers the relationships and the friendships she has formed with students who have returned over the years to thank her for challenging them and for preparing them well for studying language in college. Many of these students have returned with stories of their experiences learning and speaking foreign languages on their journeys abroad. But Mrs. Migliaccio states that she has also learned from her students. She has learned that in the classroom, as well as in life, it is important to be sincere and to be firm. In fact, she would advise any new teacher to be patient, to be flexible, and to have a sense of humor! She would like to reassure them that it’s okay to make a few mistakes. Just stand back, laugh at yourself and start again.

But don’t worry about Felicia Migliaccio being lost outside of the classroom. She is an arduous cook who loves to bake as well. She has an extensive library of cookbooks and is always on the lookout for new recipes to try. She claims to have found her cooking inspiration from her grandmother, whose recipes she still uses. Mrs. Migliaccio loves to make all kinds of Italian dishes – even homemade pasta. When pressed for her specialty, she said – with a precise Italian accent, “Eggplant parmigiana – but not like you get out in restaurants!”

This is a woman with big plans for her newly freed-up schedule. She is planning to travel more extensively with her husband, Guy, and to make more time to spend with her son and her family. She wants to resume her exercise regimen and start a plethora of new projects, including more time in the garden, more time spent crocheting and knitting, and maybe even some formal sewing classes. Mrs. Migliaccio hopes to find the time to read more, as she misses getting absorbed in really good books. She believes that retirement is “a time to explore,” and she would like all of us to know that if we ever have the opportunity, we should all go to Rome. She reminds us that it is the “Eternal City” which will tempt us all with its history, its art, its beauty, its good food…and its gelato!

We wish you happy trails, Mrs. Migliaccio – be healthy and happy and don’t forget to send us a postcard!

Richard Murray – Student Services

as interviewed by Timothy Holler

When we think of a compassionate and patient man who sincerely listens to us, we think of Dr. Murray. But when we think of a funny and entertaining man with a mischievous smile, we also think of Dr. Murray. Richard Murray got his undergraduate degree in Pre-Med/Biology from what is today known as Pace University. He went on to get a Master’s degree in Counseling & Human Resources from the University of Bridgeport and acquired his Ph.D.in Counseling and Psychology from Union Institute. This popular and well-respected member of the Student Services department will not be wandering around wondering how to fill up his days once he retires from BHS. He does plan to sleep in a little, however. (We wonder how his wife, Cathy Murray, will feel about this…) In the nice weather, Dr. Murray hopes to improve his golf game with a newly reunited friend. He likes to walk in nature and even birdwatch a little. He is planning to catch up with his daughter, Hannah, who lives in Kingston, in an old restored church. Dr. Murray will also be focused on planning his move to Florida (once Mrs. Murray is retired), where they will join their other daughter, Celeste (currently studying at the University of Tampa), and various family members whom he looks forward to being near. We will sorely miss Dr. Murray, and we wish him health and deep happiness in the next phase of his life.

Senior, Tim Holler, caught up with Dr. Murray and asked him these questions:

TH: What inspired you to become a counselor?

RM: Psychology courses in college intrigued me. I wanted to work with people and learn what happens in their lives.

TH: Please describe your career path.

RM: I have spent thirty years as a counselor – twenty-four in Brewster, and six years in Washingtonville. I have also had a private practice for thirty years.

TH: What was your initial position when you first started teaching in Brewster?

RM: I was a Student Assistance Counselor in the high school. I worked with students regarding drug and alcohol issues.

TH: Looking back on your career, what would you cite as the highlights?

RM: Working with students! I embraced the challenge of working with students whose issues were very diverse; some of my students were very troubled while others were very motivated. I found them all interesting and challenging. I also liked working with people who shared some of my views and philosophies.

TH: What aspects of your work at BHS will you miss most?

RM: I will miss the interpersonal interactions – meeting new young people and witnessing their growth.

TH: What have you learned from the students you worked with?

RM: I have learned that nothing is guaranteed and life changes.

TH: Would you share something with us that your students might not know about you?

RM: I love playing the guitar – you know, messing around with it. I take online lessons with a really gifted guitarist named Justin Sandercoe. Check him out. I want to get to be good at it – I play blues and 60’s and 70’s folk. I’m also a movie nut – I love the classics and mysteries.

TH: What advice would you give to someone just starting out in education?

RM: I would tell them to do their research, know what they’re getting into and work at staying balanced. Education has changed so much.

TH: If you could recommend some place that you think we should all go to, where would that be?

RM: Go inside yourself; explore yourself, your faith and your humanity. Time is well spent looking into yourself. Some people would be wise to change their internal selves rather than their surroundings.

TH: Finally, Dr. Murray, what are your big plans for your retirement?

RM: To play golf. To find a way to be useful. To make sure I do something productive.

Dr. Murray graduated from BHS 50 years ago this year, and this graduation, will be saying the pledge along with the 50 year alumni.

Jeannine Wool – Special Education

as interviewed by Ever Gonzales

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of either being in one of Mrs. Wool’s classes – or co-teaching with her, she is one of the most authentically dedicated teachers in the district. After thirty-three years of teaching, she has decided to retire. A BHS graduate who got her degree in Psychology at Mount Saint Mary College, she then got her Master’s degree in Reading at West Conn. She has been a vital member of the Special Education department for thirty-one years – this year as co-liaison – and has been involved in countless extra-curricular activities. She has served as Junior Class Adviser, she ran small groups for SSA, and she was on the Faculty Council – the group responsible for social events – which Mrs. Wool still does unofficially. About ten years ago, a student with muscular dystrophy wanted to be involved in after school activities, but his choices were limited. Mrs. Wool’s SSA group came up with the idea to play Bingo. Since then, a diverse group of students has played rowdy games of Bingo with the help of Ms. Lussier, Mrs. Lodge and Mrs. McIlvenna. In her “Senior Year,” Mrs. Wool made it a goal to attend as many events as she could, but the one that stands out to her the most is the Holiday Concert during which she performed with other faculty. As she claims not to be able to sing, this event was entirely out of her comfort zone, but one she will long remember. She and Ms. Lussier co-facilitated The Challengers Club – a group that raises students’ awareness of kindness and civility – an important aspect of her legacy. And the whole faculty will miss her voice on the last day of school as she has been the inimitable co-emcee of the annual Faculty Breakfast with Mrs. Lodge. We wish Mrs. Wool a very happy future – complete with many lunches at McKinney & Doyle spent with her husband, Walter, and her special family and many friends. We will miss her dearly.

Recently, Ever Gonzales sat down to interview her about her upcoming retirement.

EG: Mrs. Wool, what made you want to become a teacher?

JW: I always liked working with kids.

EG: at was the first position you taught at BHS?

JW: I started teaching English in Special Education.

EG: What would you consider the highlights of your career at BHS?

JW: Seeing my students be successful.

EG: What will you miss most about teaching here?

JW: I’m going to miss the students and my co-workers.

EG: What lessons have you learned from your students?

JW: I have learned never to underestimate anyone – everyone has some strength they can use in their future.

EG: Tell me something that your students may not know about you.

JW: I grew up in Put Lake. I went to my prom with the man who is now my hubby and I’m still friends with the people who were my friends in middle school.

EG: What advice would you give a new teacher?

JW: I would tell a new teacher to enjoy her time in the classroom. I would also tell her not to get involved in school “politics” and to find the best in her students.

EG: If you could recommend one place for anyone to travel to at some point in their life, where would it be?

JW: I don’t have just one particular place, but just enjoy wherever you are. Whether it’s at the beach or you back yard doesn’t matter, just as long as you’re in the moment, you’ll enjoy yourself.

EG: What are your plans for the future?

JW: I plan to spend time with my family and travel to places I have never been before. I hope to spend a lot of time with my kids, who are adults, and spend more time in Florida with my husband.