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Harvard Club of Long Island

Mount Sinai teacher Glynis Nau-Ritter conducts an experiment during class in the 1980s. Photo from Glynis Nau-Ritter

By Desirée Keegan

Glynis Nau-Ritter is not your conventional teacher.

“I know I’m different,” the Mount Sinai educator said. “I’ve been told that a lot, and I think part of it is I’ve had a lot of experience [which] I try to bring into the classroom.”

In life and in teaching, different can be memorable.

Glynis Nau-Ritter, a science teacher, has been at Mount Sinai for 27 years. Photo from Glynis Nau-Ritter

Judith Esterquest, Harvard Club of Long Island chair of the Distinguished Teacher Selection Committee, said she sees how Nau-Ritter has changed student’s lives. After a nomination by former student Seth Brand, now a junior at Harvard College, the 27-year Mount Sinai teacher was awarded the Harvard Club of Long Island’s Distinguished Teacher award.

Nau-Ritter’s experience includes a bachelor’s degree in biology and a master’s in marine sciences from Stony Brook University. As a teacher’s assistant at Stony Brook, she was stranded on an island while conducting research. The group was soaked, with no food or water while waiting to be rescued. Nau-Ritter said once she told her classes the story, news spread that she’d “lived on Gilligan’s Island.” When she received a teaching position at St. Anthony’s more than 30 years ago, she had no background in education, but Nau-Ritter said it never held her back.

“I was trained in pure science, so I might see things a little differently, but the kids know it and respect it,” she said. “I didn’t need classroom training. You do what you think is right, and it works. Kids constantly say ‘listen to her stories,’ because they’re real world.”

Brand said he thought his former teacher was deserving of the recognition.

“With life experience worth listening to, Mrs. Nau-Ritter is interesting both to learn about and to learn from,” Brand said. “She stands out because she didn’t just connect to elite students, she has taught nearly every type of student our town produces. She’s the zany teacher who painted life into the study of life. She’s the heart of our district.”

Nau-Ritter has run the gamut as far as subjects and levels, teaching Advanced Placement biology classes, A.P. environmental science, marine coastal science, chemistry and earth science, even special education students. She is also an adjunct professor at Stony Brook and Syracuse universities. Her work as a graduate research assistant performing studies in marine environments led to six articles being accepted by research journals. She was an avid diver and now a snorkeler.

“She’s the zany teacher who painted life into the study of life. She’s the heart of our district.”

— Seth Brand

The Port Jefferson Station resident also helped Mount Sinai’s Ocean Bowl team repeat its first-place win in the Bay Scallop Bowl this year, an academic competition testing students’ knowledge of marine sciences, and represented New York in the National Ocean Sciences Bowl. Active in advising many extracurricular activities, Nau-Ritter is also involved in the school’s environmental club, among others, and  rolls up her sleeves for an annual Cedar Beach cleanup each fall, coordinating school efforts with the Ocean Conservancy.

“Mrs. Nau-Ritter understands that academia is not confined to the four walls of the classroom,” Mount Sinai High School principal Rob Grable said of the Mount Sinai fixture. “[She is] the consummate educator and professional. She is well aware of the academic expectations that await students at the college and university level, and she prepares our high school students accordingly.”

Nau-Ritter is the second consecutive Mount Sinai teacher to be honored with the recognition. Gary Kulik, a calculus teacher, received the distinction last year. The science teacher said knowing Kulik for many years, she knows they both focus on getting their students to a higher level of thinking.

Mount Sinai teacher Glynis Nau-Ritter with her Ocean Bowl quiz team. Photo from Glynis Nau-Ritter

“The kids know you’re dedicated,” she said. “I’m there well past the afternoon bell, and I think that’s what truly makes a good teacher. It’s about being there for kids when they have questions that need to be answered. They want help in their careers or want to understand science topics.”

The Queens native also likes to bring news into the classroom, driving home her philosophy of applying the real world to her classroom.

“I’m very much into observing and noticing everything on the outside,” she said. “I like to infiltrate science in any way I can, and I love when I see the lightbulb go off when they get it. I never thought I was going to be a teacher. I was always very much into research, but seeing these kids so excited about learning, I guess I got bit by the bug to be a teacher. Looking back, I know I’ve made a difference in many lives, and for that I’m grateful.”

Nau-Ritter and the 11 other honorees will be recognized at a ceremony at Heritage Club at Bethpage April 15, and Harvard Club of Long Island will announce the distinguished teacher who will also receive a scholarship for a “Harvard experience” at Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

“Devoted teachers like Mrs. Nau-Ritter offer Long Island students deep expertise, extraordinary talents and countless hours of attention,” Esterquest said. “By capturing the minds and imaginations of our children and preparing them for challenges that were unknown even a few decades ago, these teachers shape the future of our country.”

Mount Sinai High School. File photo by Barbara Donlon

Gary Kulik, an educator and coach for the last 30 years at Mount Sinai High School, has been named a “Distinguished Teacher of 2017” by the Harvard Club of Long Island.

“This award honors teachers who transform lives,” said Dr. Judith Esterquest, the Harvard Club of Long Island’s chair of the distinguished teachers selection committee. “Devoted teachers like Gary Kulik offer Long Island students deep expertise, extraordinary talents and countless hours of attention. By capturing the minds and imaginations of our children and preparing them for challenges that were unknown even a few decades ago, these teachers shape the future of our country.”

Gary Kulik, a calculus teacher at Mount Sinai High School, earned the Harvard Club of Long Island’s distinguished teacher award. Photo from Michael Voltz

Kulik, the first from the district to be honored with the award, has been teaching calculus classes at Mount Sinai High School for the past 26 years. Prior to, he taught in the middle school for a few years. A graduate of Stony Brook University with a BS in applied math, he enjoys coaching the high school and middle school math teams.

Kulik also did graduate work at Stony Brook, earning a Master’s Degree in Coaching and Athletics. He is known for having coached the middle school football team since joining the district, and for coaching the basketball team for 15 years. Whether in academics or on the field, he is always there to coach students. He speculates he has written over 1,000 letters of recommendation for his students.

Kulik has a son who is a land surveyor specializing in laser scanning and a daughter who is a high school biology teacher. He was an actuary for a short while before starting his teaching career.

“Mr. Kulik is a beloved figure throughout Mount Sinai; his room is full even when he is not teaching” said Patrick Hanaj, a Mount Sinai High School alum who is expected to graduate from Harvard College in 2020.

“He consistently has the most alumni visit him each year,” Hanaj added. “Kulik forms lifelong connections to his students through programs like the 10-Year Letter, in which he personally mails letters to alumni from their 12th grade selves.”

When Superintendent of Schools Gordan Brosdal learned of this award, he described Kulik as “taking great pride in his work and the Mount Sinai school district.”

“Gary Kulik consistently establishes a culture of respect and trust in his classroom, while he maintains high expectations for all of his students.”

— Gordon Brosdal

“He believes the role of the teacher is the single greatest factor on maximizing student achievement,” Brosdal said. “Gary Kulik consistently establishes a culture of respect and trust in his classroom, while he maintains high expectations for all of his students. Gary’s classroom is engaging and exciting. Because he empowers his students to develop the ability to ‘think about their thinking’ and to learn independently. I enjoy visiting his classroom to watch him work his magic.”

Mount Sinai’s High School Principal, Robert Grable calls Kulik a consummate professional, adding the teacher plans and facilitates instructional designs that reflect a confidence in his students’ learning abilities.

“His students are active participants in the process, thus motivated to assume ownership of their learning,” he said. “Whether it be to receive extra help or simply to chat about life, Mr. Kulik is available for his students.”

Kulik will be one of 12  Long Island teachers honored at the Harvard Club of Long Island’s annual University Relations Luncheon on April 30. At the ceremony, the Harvard Club of Long Island will announce the Distinguished Teacher of 2017 who will also receive a scholarship for a “Harvard experience” at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass. Past winners of the scholarships have enhanced their teaching by sampling the resources available to Harvard students — meeting with faculty, visiting research laboratories, rare book archives, and specialty museums.

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