When Spencer Byrne, a seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher at Newark Middle School, learned that the 2021 yearbook was dedicated to him, the virtual announcement was different from the years before the COVID restrictions.
Before the 2019-20 school year, NMS staff would be surprised at the announcement at a morning meeting in mid-June in the auditorium, where excited students and staff jumped to their feet and gave the honored recipient a standing ovation.
Byrne, of Penfield, said the end-of-day school public address announcement was just as meaningful under the circumstances and something he will not forget.
Eighth graders Jessica Brown, Jeff Hernandez, Leeann Titus, and Dominick Wheaton shared their reasons for why he was worthy of the honor. Hernandez said Byrne was “the most qualified teacher, mentor, and friend one could ask for.”
“His students know when they walk into his classroom that they are in the company of a caring, knowledgeable, and highly respected teacher,” he added. “Mr. Byrne is also a very nice and amazing person to every single person in this building. He makes us come back to class every day and never miss a class.”
Yearbook advisor and editor Mandy Armstrong, secretary to headmistress Teresa Prinzi, asked eighth graders at the beginning of the school year to whom the yearbook should be dedicated. Byrne received the most votes.
“The entire eighth grade received a poll to choose who to dedicate the yearbook to, why they felt the nominee deserved the honor, what their favorite memory of their nominee is and what PRIDE award they would give to their nominee, and why, ”Armstrong said. “The feedback from eighth grade was overwhelming. Not only did you have incredibly nice things to say about Mr. Byrne, but also about many of the middle school teachers. ”
“I was surprised,” said Byrne. “It was really an honor. Even though it was a tough and really challenging year for all of us, the dedication to the yearbook showed me that I can really make a difference. ”
During the taped virtual announcement, the four students talking about Byrne appeared on his classroom door with a copy of the yearbook. Byrne’s students in his final lesson stood up and applauded him. He said he could hear the other classes cheering all over the hall during the announcement.
Byrne has just completed his fourth year of apprenticeship at the NMS. He received his Bachelor of Science degree in Biology Education from SUNY Cortland and a Masters Degree in Biology from Brockport College. Prior to joining the Newark Central School District, he taught science for grades 7-9 and environmental science for grades 11-12 in the Franklin Central School District.
At the end of the announcement, Prinzi gave a “big greeting to Mr. Byrne” on behalf of the school and congratulated him on being the winner.