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POB Holds Tourney In Teacher’s Memory

High school seems to flash by in a fleeting moment, with memories becoming more threadbare with each passing year.

Students and faculty joined together in a charity basketball tournament recently to keep one of those memories alive and to honor a teacher who imparted much more than just textbook platitudes.

Michael Secko was a business teacher at Plainview-Old Bethpage John F. Kennedy High School for more than 10 years. Anecdotes laden with humor and advice permeated his teaching style, as he used his life experience in the business world to instruct his students and prepare them for life after high school.

When he died from esophogeal cancer in December 2012, the students and faculty felt the tremendous loss deeply. But rather than let the emptiness remain, they chose to keep his memory alive; first by placing a plaque at the school store he helped run, and then by creating the Michael Secko Memorial Scholarship Fund for students looking to pursue a career in business.

Funded with proceeds raised at the charity basketball tournament, the scholarship continues Secko’s legacy of helping students achieve their goals.

“He was truly dedicated to his students; he loved teaching and passing on his wisdom,” said Lindsay DeLucca, a fellow business teacher at Plainview. “Now with this scholarship, even though he is gone he can keep giving back to the students.”

More than 80 students and faculty members filled the high school’s gymnasium, with multiple half-court basketball games commencing at once. Teams of students and staff squared off against each other until one team remained — the tournament champions, the Blue Devils, consisting of juniors Allen Durutovic, David Glass and Jacob Pullman.

Business students and seniors Brad Wolff, Lisa Rosenstein and Taylor Shwide helped organize the event and kept score along with other students as the teams battled it out for the top spot. All members of DECA, an association of business students participating in competitions at regional, state and international levels, the organizers said they owe much of their success to the critical business mind of Secko.

“His constructive criticisms meant a lot to me,” said Wolff. “He passed on knowledge to all of his students, not just in the classroom but also in life. He always had an anecdote for life in his teaching. And that is such an important aspect of learning.”

Plainview Principal James Murray echoed those sentiments, saying that Secko presented his experience to the students in a way that was interesting and always engaging.

“He taught with experience and that was his most invaluable asset,” said Murray. “He had a story for everything and he would routinely go off topic. And his students loved it. Students respond to that brand of teaching far more than anything else. He took every opportunity to shy away from the textbook. Teachers that impart real experiences can change a student’s life.”

Murray said Secko’s death was a shock to students and faculty alike, as his cancer got the better of him soon after he was diagnosed. But Murray said the manner in which the school came together to honor the fallen teacher displays his importance, as well as the character of the student body.

“The number of students involved in the charity match is a testament to the type of school this is,” he said. “The kids love being here, they don’t rush home at the end of the day. They stay and get involved; they enjoy their time here. And in the same way, the faculty enjoys being here with the students.”

Scott Leiberman, a fellow business teacher, said Secko was a good fit with the students at Plainview — and now his memory will live on far beyond graduation.

“He never turned anyone away,” said Lieberman. “He was an inspiration and now his business philosophy will live on.”