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Briarcliff Schools Say Farewell to Retirees in Bittersweet Ceremony

BRIARCLIFF MANOR, N.Y. – For Briarcliff High School senior Tyler VanGilder, teachers like Joyce Kelly weren’t just inspiration in the classroom, but an inspiration in life.

“I want to study engineering in college, and that’s mostly because of her,” the 18-year-old said Monday night. “I’m basing my life around what she inspired in me in physics class.”

About 100 people shared their thanks for eight retiring faculty and staff members in the Briarcliff Manor school district Monday night in the Briarcliff Middle School cafeteria. Teachers Kelly, Neil Chervin, Donna Heyner, Elyse Smith, Scott Steinberg and Colleen Winter along with custodian Sissy Brannan and bus driver John Walsh officially retired from the district and promptly returned the thanks.

When asked what she would miss most about the district, Kelly didn’t hesitate and immediately pointed to the students attending the ceremony.

“These guys are what I’m going to miss,” she said, “sharing my love of physics with students like them every day.”

Kelly said she will not stop teaching.  

“My biggest plan is to enjoy my grandkids. I have two kiddies and I have to make sure they learn physics, too,” Kelly said with a laugh.

Former student Rob Fine, who is working toward a doctorate at the University of Rochester, made sure to attend Monday’s ceremony to give his thanks to several teachers who helped guide him.

“It was a very crucial point in my development, and I can’t thank them enough,” Fine said. “I was lucky to have many great teachers at Briarcliff.”

High School Principal James Kaishian said the district had a tough task ahead to fill the gap left from the retirees, foremost because they offer more than expertise in their fields.

“They go beyond that and are very passionate about what they do,” Kaishian said. “These are the reasons why kids don’t fall through the cracks. They make sure that they do all they can to support students with their social and academic success. It’s going to be a tough loss.”

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