After 32 years within the Mineola School District, high school Assistant Principal Mike Terc decided to depart and embark on a new chapter of his life - retirement.
Terc's career is marked by many accomplishments including his reception of the Jenkins Service Award, the Outstanding Community Service Award, and most notably the NYS Distinguished Assistant Principal Award (SAANYS award) which he received during the 2000 school year for his many years of outstanding service as an administrator.
"The SAANYS award is a very prestigious award to win... only one person gets it a year," said Ed Escobar, the new assistant principal for Mineola High School. "I used to work in Deer Park and I used to hear about Mike Terc all the way out there. He was renowned as a great administrator."
Mineola High School Assistant Principal Mike Terc is honored by John Cloghessy of the Mineola Athletic Booster Club at the club's dinner held at the end of the school year.
But to describe Mr. Terc's career simply in terms of his professional accomplishments and reputation would be to miss the profoundly beneficial effect he's had on his students and co-workers alike. "He's worked closely with me and helped me so much through the years," Mr. Terc's secretary Marilyn Berglund said. "He's had a great impact on my career as well as many others here at Mineola. He will help anyone. He'll stop what he's doing and help you no matter what the problem is, with any question that you could have. The kids know him and love him for he's genuinely interested in what they're doing. He knows them as individuals. His retirement is a very emotional time for me because I've worked so closely with him for so many years. All the people in the building will miss him terribly."
Mrs. Berglund related a letter written by Kate Nelson, a former student, in her recommendation of Mr. Terc for the SAANYS award. "Mr. Terc was a leader, a facilitator and a caring friend of the students," Nelson wrote. "He was careful to inform the students of upcoming student social events. His door was always open and he was never too busy to help. He was always thoughtful. He sent me a picture that he took of my last lacrosse game. In his eyes, every student was individual and special and he made that known to them in so many ways."
One only needs to stroll through the halls of Mineola High School to get a feeling of Mr. Terc's commitment and enthusiasm for the school, its students and events. The walls near the main office are lined with pictures he has taken of various social and athletic functions. His office is a virtual gallery, a photographic timeline that captures countless gatherings, faculty and students as far back as the '70s. "It's a visual overview of his career that spans many generations," Berglund said.
"I treasure my job because of its social aspects ... I get to know so many people," Mr. Terc explained. "I pride myself on being very involved with the students and that's what all the photographs I've taken represent - my involvement and the good memories associated with that. I've spent my whole career in Mineola. It's very close to me. I feel like I've taken on more than just an administrator's role. I've become part of the families that I've seen come through here and in a sense they've become part of my family."
A lifelong resident of Long Island, Mike Terc grew up in Calhoun and attended Hofstra University. After graduating with a degree in mathematics, he was initially offered a job with Grumman. "But I knew I always wanted to be a teacher so I respectfully declined and began working in the Mineola School District," he said.
Mr. Terc started as a math teacher at the middle school, which was then the junior high school. "Some people might think it boring to teach the same subject year after year," he explained. "But the people who say that don't understand the truly great thing about teaching and that is the interaction with the students. I loved teaching because it gave me the chance to meet and know so many great kids."
From the beginning, Mr. Terc was heavily involved in school activities. In addition to his teaching responsibilities, he also served as the school's baseball coach, basketball coach, football coach, and found time to be the advisor to the school's mathletes team. Having played baseball for Hofstra, Mr. Terc quickly established himself as a successful coach in that sport and was soon coaching at the high school level, leading a perennially strong team that for one year (1976) was the North Shore Baseball Champions. That year, Mr. Terc was awarded the High School Baseball Coach of the Year by the New York Daily News. He also received the Al Kumerow Nassau County Sportsmanship Award from the Baseball Umpires Association in both 1973 and 1974.
After 16 years of teaching math at the middle school, Mr. Terc switched positions and became the assistant principal at the high school. In a speech given at a school ceremony held in honor of his receiving the SAANYS award, Mr. Terc explained this transition from teacher to administrator. "When my principal (at the middle school) became superintendent, he asked me to consider becoming an administrator. He told me someone would have to take his place in the years to come, and he felt that I had the qualities to succeed and even to excel. I remember I anguished over leaving teaching because to me, it was the cornerstone of education. It was the meat and potatoes of the learning process, the place where the battle was truly won or lost. But his words kept echoing in my ears - who would carry on the task of providing a safe and secure place for the kids to learn in and the staff to teach in. Now, I would dedicate myself in providing an environment that would allow others to teach and to excel. This has been my goal and passion for the last 16 years as I have served as assistant principal."
When asked to describe what his greatest contribution was as assistant principal, Mr. Terc answered, "probably my ability to organize often complex major events and processes into manageable humanistic procedures. Since I firmly believe that the greatest gift we have to give one another is ourselves, it has always been a tenet of my life to reduce and restructure complicated systems, such as you often find in schools, into fun filled, stress free activities. When we make such adjustments we free up large amounts of time that can allow us to deal with the truly important things, our fellow people."
It is this philosophy that has allowed Mr. Escobar (the new assistant principal) to make a seamless transition into his new position. "I've only known Mr. Terc for the past six weeks, but I already know him to be a great person," he said. "He's helped me by giving me all his notes and computer files on things concerning the budget, testing and graduation and homecoming. He's really helped me move into this position. I had to know how this school was run and he's the guy who showed me. I think one thing that the school is going to miss about him is that he was very student oriented. He really prides himself on that. He knows the kids; he knows who they are; he knows their families; he's involved. He's definitely a figure I'm looking to emulate in moving into this position."
Mike Terc understands what great memories are made of - simple things like a breakfast together, a barbecue, a senior citizens day or a homecoming. "These relatively simple events are what we really tend to remember as some of the greatest times, at least that's the way it is for me. That's why I was so involved," he said.
Mr. Terc found it difficult to single out any one memory as his fondest, as every year offered its moments. However, he was able to recall a tired night when he came back to the high school after having received his SAANYS award in Albany. One of his co-workers cajoled him into coming down into the cafeteria to look at a "problem." Waiting for him instead were 250 co-workers and students - all there to surprise and greet him with cake and celebration. "It struck me down. It was just great," he said. "It was just another moment in my career that has affirmed my belief in the inherent goodness of people. I came into the district very optimistic, believing that deep down people wanted to do good. My whole experience as a teacher and administrator here has only strengthened this belief."
Considering his popularity and unwavering dedication to the job, it is difficult to fathom Mr. Terc's retirement. He explained his decision by simply stating, "I want to go out at the top of my game. I want people to remember me just like they do now. It's the right time. I've always urged people to enjoy the natural stages of their lives, when you're a student be a student, when you're a parent be a parent and don't live life so that you have regrets later on," he said. "I imagine I'll go back to teaching in some capacity but other than that, I don't have any set plans for my retirement. But I'm not worried."
At this, Mr. Terc offered a warm grin and recited one of his favorite phrases, "Just look at these students and you need not fear the future."