It is said that if a teacher positively affects the life of just a single student, he or she has done their job.
If that is true, Judy Reilly and Paul Zipper have far exceeded expectations.
Reilly, a longtime teacher at Walnut Square Elementary School, has been named the city’s Educator of the Year. The award is based on nominations from the public that were sent to the YMCA, which gives the award. Zipper, longtime arson investigator with the state police, has been recognized as a pioneer in online learning. His criminal justice course at Northern Essex Community College was selected as one of the best online courses in the state. (See stories, page 1.)
During her 49-year career, Reilly’s focus has been on elementary students, working with them during their formative years to nail down the basics, while also encouraging them to be creative. Each year, her students at one of Haverhill’s oldest brick schoolhouses package up saplings to be given to the city’s youngest students in recognition of Arbor Day.
Reilly told reporter Mike LaBella said she gets “joy’’ from teaching, and that she was somewhat embarrassed to receive the award.
“Children are like little sponges and just love to learn,’’ she said. “There should be more awards for other teachers who work so diligently and are so dedicated.’’
Zipper is well-known for his ability to solve mysteries involving arsons. He has helped determine the causes and people responsible for some of the region’s most devastating fires, including blazes in Haverhill, his hometown. The savvy he has learned on the job are a plus for his students. His knowledge of crime fighting does not come from a book, but rather from the street. They are the real life lessons of a professional.
“When I was growing up I would run into people who would mentor me, people who for whatever reason would take a liking to me,” Zipper told the Gazette. “So now that I’m on this end of my career, I try to do the same thing for people on the way up. I want to help them succeed based on what I’ve learned.”
We salute Reilly and Zipper for their commitment to teaching and inspiring their students, whether leading them through the basics of readin’, writin’ and ‘rithmatic or the more complex world of law enforcement.
We hope all teachers strive for the same excellence, and that the community continues to honor its educators.