Showing school pride during trying times in Dyker Heights.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and distant learning, many eighth-graders feel isolated and deprived of receiving the recognition they’ve looked forward to all year.
However, I.S. 201, at 8010 12th Ave., is making sure that every eighth-grader feels loved.
On Thursday, May 7, faculty, administration and PTA members paid a visit to more than 500 eighth-graders to show school pride and supply them with gifts.
Principal Robert Ciulla discussed the importance of organizing such a massive sign of appreciation.
“As we all know, it’s been a tough time for seniors throughout the world, so we are always communicating how we can support the students through this tough time,” he said. “So while conversing, we figured we should actually go to the students’ homes and make a personal visit with their teachers, staff, and parents that supported them and we said that’s a great idea. So with my PTA, we ended up ordering these congratulation signs.”
The PTA and Ciulla compiled all of the students’ addresses, and broke them down by coordinating streets for the teachers to go to.
“It was for the social and emotional well-being of the students and school spirit,” he said. “Of course, they have seen faces by learning through a screen but not up close and personal.”
The PTA decided to move forward with the idea. They got masks with the school’s logo on them, 2020 glasses, and the congratulation signs.
“PTA Co-Presidents Dominique D’Onofrio and Daniela Camilleri really took this by the horns and went with it,” Ciulla said. “Together, we organized this. We had a great outcome from the teachers. We had 40 teachers, administrators, and parents who all wanted to contribute to this. It wasn’t just teachers. Assistant principals were all helping out too.”
Much of the work was done in D’Onofrio’s yard and at home since faculty wasn’t allowed to go inside the school. During the visits, they practiced social distancing to make sure everyone was in a safe environment and everything went off without a hitch.
“It was such a great feeling,” Ciulla said. “It was great to see the faces on the students and also the families knowing that we did do this. It was so important to us as it was to families.”
The entire initiative was a surprise.
“We didn’t tell them we were going,” the principal said. “We told them to watch out for someone from school to make the delivery and of course when they saw their own teacher, they were so excited and overwhelmed themselves. You can see in the photos how happy they are.”
The staff didn’t just commute through Dyker. Some went to all the five boroughs to make sure everyone was visited.
“We had 561 graduates and 40 volunteers,” he said. “Some teachers wanted their whole class. That could’ve been all over Brooklyn or whatever. We tried to do a five-block radius.”
The students responded with joy.
“I was surprised when the doorbell rang and my teacher was standing there with a graduation sign,” said Stiliani Raptis. “It was a bittersweet experience. It was sweet because my school thought of me and my class to personally deliver our signs, yet it was bitter because I’m graduating and leaving Dyker Heights behind. Dyker gave me three amazing years of memories that will stay with me forever.”
Parents were also thrilled.
“I’m happy that Dyker did their best to make something good from this bad situation,” said Stavroula Raptis. “It was nice to see my daughter smile when she saw her band teacher of three years present her with her graduation sign. The thought that the school and PTA organized such a terrific gesture is very heartwarming.”
Faculty also spoke about the special day.
“It was so great to see my students again,” said teacher James Watters. “Thank you Mr. Ciulla and PTA! What a great memory for all!!”
“The students appeared very proud and so happy to be recognized,” said Dean Paula Pignataro. “It was great to be part of such a special day! Thank you Mr. Ciulla, PTA and all involved!”
“It was so nice to surprise so many of my students! Had a great day!” said Christine Gross. “Thank you for organizing and for our amazing PTA!”
The school is also filming inspirational videos for the students.
“We try to do one every two weeks to support the children and understand we are still with them and thinking about them,” Ciulla said. “We have different themes and we are connected. We consider ourselves a Dyker family.”
He added, “It was great to support everyone because even ourselves, the school, we needed this. We needed to connect with the students. We’re not supposed to be seen working remotely. We are supposed to be working in front of children. This was a build-up for us to help us also to connect with students.”