This year, Todd Elementary third grade teacher Abbey Siegel will be retiring. We spoke with her about her most memorable moments at Todd, one of which was a special Mother’s Day celebration. In honor of Mother’s Day, here is Ms. Siegel’s Q&A:
Q: How long have you been teacher at the school, what grade/subject and where did you teach before?
A: This is my 30th year of teaching, but my 24th year at Todd. Here I’ve taught Kindergarten and 3rd grade. Third grade is my passion.
Prior to Briarcliff I taught 1st and 3rd grade in the city, and prior to that I taught Nursery School. I also taught Kindergarten in Maryland for a bit.
Q: What are some memorable moments from your career at the school?
A: It’s always been important to me to help my students practice public speaking. Each student reads a book aloud to the class. Even now with virtual learning I had a student say she didn’t want to miss it. So she recorded her story, and then we presented it to the class. That’s what I love – getting them to share my passion and motivating them to try.
Christopher left my class one June, but always remembered me. Year after year I would get a note of kindness during the Thanksgiving Season. I didn’t care that it was prompted by another teacher. He remembered me enough to let me know that I made a difference in his life. What a gift!
Years ago I decided to let my students help me honor my own mother who had passed away. I created a Mother’s Day Show where the students wrote letters to their moms, sang songs, worked collaboratively, gave speeches, and made a full presentation to a room full of adults. There was never a dry eye in the room.
With the help of my dear colleague Ana Correia, we implemented a Program called, Trading Spaces to help transition second graders into third grade. We found it very successful.
Another passion of mine was starting a program for parents. Kay Brancato was kind enough to offer to work with me and bring her expertise. We met with parents in the evening to discuss different concerns regarding education and their children.
Another idea I had was creating a Book Room that the Todd Staff could share. Each grade level had so many chapter books, and we always talked about being able to share our resources. Luckily, Ana shared the same vision and once again we were on a mission. The Book Room today has over 6,000 books!
Being Teacher of the Year in 2010 was an honor. The person I wanted to share it with, but couldn’t, was my mother. At the time I picked education as a profession there were no jobs, and she pleaded with me to find something else. Like most mothers, she was partially correct, there were no jobs. I detoured for a couple of years, but eventually found my way in!
From year to year I cannot imagine not remembering a face or a name. After all, they are in front of me all day sharing their thoughts, their feelings, their families, and their fears. However, having taught close to 800 students in my career it is possible that I may not recognize one of them when they come to visit me as nearly an adult. I have many memories and stories that I share with my friends and family. I will keep them close always.
Q: Can you share a funny incident that happened while teaching?
A: I’ve shared my heart and soul over the years with my students, and there have been so many moments that I’ve laughed and even cried. One year, after teaching different regions, the students were waiting in line for lunch and recess. One boy was there with no jacket in the middle of winter. After asking him to get his jacket he replied, “Mrs. Siegel – I was born in January, in the middle of winter!” With that he looked right at me and smiled... “See, I get it!” Those are the moments I want to remember.
Q: Do you have any advice to offer to a teacher starting out?
A: To new teachers – as hard as you can imagine teaching will be, it is harder than that! Make sure it is your passion. It’s okay to say TGIF, but when Monday comes around you should be eager to wake up and get back to your classroom.
Q: What are your plans for retirement?
A: My husband and I will be retiring to North Carolina but keeping our roots here in New York. We have a daughter who lives in the city so we will be visiting a lot! Our other daughter lives on our route to NC (with our grandchildren) so our travels back and forth will always bring us to family.
As for what I plan to do…I know for sure I need some “me” time. Teaching is the kind of profession that you are never really “off.” Even on breaks and summer vacations I am always working, planning and thinking: What comes next? What new ideas can I implement? How can I motivate my students differently?
I plan on getting back to my scrapbooking, cooking, playing Mahjong and becoming involved in my new community. I’d like to volunteer in women’s shelters and be a “baby buddy” in hospitals. I am also an Ordained Minister and have some weddings to perform once we are allowed to start mingling again.
Q: If you can pass any wisdom to your students what would it be?
1. Think positive – always remember the glass is half full, not half empty.
2. Be honest with yourself and others.
3. Really listen.
4. Present yourself with clarity and pride.
5. Always do Acts of Kindness.
6. Know that some kind of organization will help you reach your goals.
7. Believe that you can.
8. Remember that consequences come from the choices you make.
9. Have a sense of humor – laugh EVERY day!
10. And SMILE – because someone somewhere needs yours.
Q: What is your favorite quote?
A: “You’re never wrong to do the right thing.”