VFWs Name Teachers Of The Year

Two Hamptons Bays music teachers have been honored by state and local VFW organizations as teachers of the year.

Steve Piliero, who has taught in the Hampton Bays School District since 2004, was named New York State VFW Elementary Teacher of the Year.

Hampton Bays music teacher and choral director Steve Piliero. Independent/Courtesy Hampton Bays School District

“This is a special recognition for me,” Piliero said. “It’s like completing a circle, since I am being honored for my efforts in honoring our veterans.”

As a music teacher and choral director, he has prepared students for 9/11 performances, Veterans Day, and Flag Day public ceremonies and implemented various multimedia lessons in general music for his students in kindergarten through fourth grade. He also serves as the school’s sound technician for public and school events and ceremonies.

Jennifer Halsey earned the High School Teacher of the Year designation from Westhampton Beach VFW Post 5350, which nominated Piliero to the state for his.

“I am extremely grateful for this incredible honor,” Halsey said. “I have been blessed to be teaching the past 26 years, and my love for what I do grows bigger every year. To be a part of a child’s life — not only in music, but to witness their overall success in high school — is priceless.”

Hampton Bays music teacher Jennifer Halsey. Independent/Courtesy Hampton Bays School District

Halsey has been a music teacher at Hampton Bays High School since 1996. She oversees the symphonic, jazz, pep, and marching bands, and pit orchestra, and is the school’s Interact Club advisor. She also teaches beginner piano and music theory, and the district’s Life Skills Academy of Music.

The pair have also been instrumental in the district’s monthly veteran recognition ceremonies, preparing students for performances that pay tribute to local veterans.

“The entire Hampton Bays School community is proud of Mrs. Halsey and Mr. Piliero,” Superintendent Lars Clemensen said. “We are grateful to the VFW Post 5350, 1st District, and New York state for recognizing what we have known in Hampton Bays for years — these two teachers are all about kids and second to none in the work they do in teaching the ideals of citizenship, patriotism, and respect for veterans.”

Westhampton Beach

Westhampton Beach Middle School critical literacy teacher Kelly Russell. Independent/Courtesy Westhampton Beach Union Free School District

Westhampton Beach Middle School critical literacy teacher Kelly Russell was also recognized by VFW Post 5350 as a teacher of the year.

“I feel incredibly fortunate to have been nominated and selected,” Russell said. “The VFW is such a wonderful organization, as it embodies the leadership and commitment to community that I hope to inspire in my critical literacy classes.”

Russell, of Wantagh, has taught in the Westhampton Beach school district since 2002. During her tenure, she has created two elective courses on United Nations policies. She also supervises the social action and charity work of more than 100 middle school students.

Prior to her time in Westhampton Beach, she was employed for two years as a teacher trainer and curriculum developer for Eastern Suffolk BOCES in Deer Park, and as a facilitator for the Long Island Writing Project in Garden City from 1999 to 2004. She started her career as a ninth-grade English teacher in the Levittown School District. She also taught high school English and creative writing for two years in the Northport School District.

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