HHS English Teachers Have Laser Focus

Huntington High School's English teachers are set for the new school year.

September 01, 2017

Strong classroom instruction is the gold standard of education on every grade level. It’s something that Huntington High School English teachers put a laser focus on along with related fun activities to keep students interested and motivated.

Huntington’s English faculty corps along with Joseph Leavy, the district’s chairman of humanities for grades 7-12 have been reflecting on the 2016/17 school year and planning for the new one.

Teachers are striving to capture the imagination of every student. A long list of initiatives have been launched to whet the intellectual appetites of teenagers on every grade level.

Among the special programs is the National English Honor Society chapter’s annual spelling bee. “Aimee Antorino and Bonnie Guarino really have grown a cool academic experience on the Friday before February’s mid-winter vacation,” said Mr. Leavy, who has judged the event for many years along with Huntington School Board member Emily Rogan. “It’s become an annual tradition and promotes learning, plus it is loads of fun.”

Joseph Leavy
Huntington's Chairman of Humanities,
7-12 Joseph Leavy.

Teachers Dianna Molenko and Steven Kroll helped launch and nurture the high school’s AP Capstone program. “Dianna wrote the AP Seminar curriculum and was awarded a Huntington Foundation grant to extend the program experience,” Mr. Leavy said. “Steven was in Baltimore for a week late last June training as a teacher for an AP Research course, which is the culminating class in the Capstone program, which I like to refer to as the apex of a high school and pre-collegiate experience, wherein students essentially research and write a high school level dissertation.”

The teachers leading the high school’s Regents, honors and AP English classes are a veteran group. Gina Colica is the lead freshman English teacher, displaying expertise in curriculum design and tiered instruction.

“Kelly Krycinski, Aimee Antorino, Victoria Lombardi and Kelly Quintero-Lashley have worked tirelessly over these past 10 years in refining the honors/AP experience for grades 9-12,” Mr. Leavy said. “Both John Pagano and Mike Schwendemann have been the backbone of our 9-10-11 Regents curriculum with Bonnie Guarino serving as our departmental resource specialist. John Pagano’s years of experience and work with students who find the English Regents to be especially challenging has yielded many stories of success for students.”

The start of the 2017/18 school year has everyone in the department excited. “We look forward to plans for the new year and beyond to heighten the Theater Arts elective experience as well as the journalism program with ideas to capitalize on the resources we have right here in the district,” Mr. Leavy said.

The department is well positioned to help every student accomplish their goals in English. “ELA coach Brendan McGowan is always available to English high school teachers for feedback, guidance and support with the Common Core standards, curriculum alignment and implementing effective lesson and assessment techniques,” Mr. Leavy said. 

The team approach has served the department well through the years. Every teacher is willing to help a colleague when a need arises and they are just as eager to mentor and guide the students in their classes. That suits Mr. Leavy just fine.

Now in his thirteenth year as a member of the Huntington School District’s administrative team, Mr. Leavy became chairperson of humanities, 7-12 in July 2011. During the previous six years he served as district director of humanities, K-12. He began his career in the district in September 1997 as a social studies teacher and has worked at both the middle school and high school levels. He currently supervises secondary grade level English and social studies teachers and the 7-12 curriculum and programs in both academic disciplines.

In addition to teaching AP American History, AP US Government and Politics, Participation in Government, Asian Studies, Economics, Regents level Economics, Global and U.S. History, Global Regents prep and ESL Global 9 classes, Mr. Leavy has served as middle school newspaper club advisor, National History Day coordinator, co-facilitator of the WISE student internship program, class advisor and curriculum writer. He has helped author new course proposals.

Mr. Leavy, who was his high school’s student government president, graduated from St. Pius X Preparatory Seminary in 1984 as class valedictorian. He obtained a Bachelor of Arts degree in history with a minor in philosophy in 1988 from Adelphi, where he also earned also earned a Master of Arts in social studies education in 1991.

Mr. Leavy engaged in private language study of Mandarin Chinese at Fu Ren University in Hsinschuang, Taiwan from September 1993 to June 1994 and later went on to earn a second Master of Arts degree in Chinese studies in 2000 from St. John’s University, where he conducted research into the 19th century Taiping Rebellion. He has served as a Chinese language translator for communications with parents of Huntington students.

Prior to coming to the district, Mr. Leavy taught at St. Thomas the Apostle School and The Windsor School, worked as an instructor in the Hope for Youth at-risk program and in January 1992 became the first American to teach English at Ta Hwa College of Commerce in Hsinchu, Taiwan. He worked there through June 1994.

A longtime admirer of Theodore Roosevelt, Mr. Leavy worked as a tour guide for the National Parks Service at the former president’s home at Sagamore Hill in Oyster Bay. He maintains memberships in a number of historical and professional societies and won the Clio Award from the Phi Alpha Theta Society for “outstanding research” on the role of Ireland’s neutrality in World War II.

Fluent in Mandarin Chinese, Mr. Leavy has traveled extensively throughout Europe and Eastern Europe, Asia and Southeast Asia, including China, Russia and Japan.

Mr. Leavy began participating in a Chinese exchange initiative in 2010 when a group of Huntington students and parents demonstrated a strong interest in engaging in more intense learning about the Chinese language and culture. This led to the establishment of the Asian Studies elective course and toward developing a relationship with Tianjin Number One High School in Tianjin, a city of 10 million inhabitants. This high school is regarded as one of the best in China and Huntington High School has established a sister-school relationship with it.

Huntington families welcomed a delegation of Tianjin students and teachers during the 2011/12 school years. Huntington students visited China for workshops and various additional learning experiences in 2013.


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