Three educators in the Diocese of Brooklyn will be honored by the National Catholic Educational Association (NCEA) at its annual convention in April.
Father Ralph Caputo, pastor of St. Bernard parish, Mill Basin, will be honored as Distinguished Pastor, a national award; William Geasor, principal of Salve Regina Catholic Academy, East New York, will be honored as Distinguished Principal for the New York State region; and Roberta Meringolo, St. Bernadette School, Dyker Heights, will be honored as Distinguished Teacher for the New York State region.
“I’ve been very blessed as a priest because every parish I’ve been assigned to has had a school,” said Father Caputo, adding that through Catholic education, young people receive a great education as well as a Catholic identity that will influence them throughout their lives.
Teaching With Love
Father Caputo said the motto of St. Bernard School is “We teach with love,” which is an appropriate motto for educators because “if you don’t teach with love, you should get out of the business. Above all, children know a kind person when they see one. You have to love them and provide an example and be there when they need you. Kids know when you love them and you care about them and that’s when the real teaching takes place.”
Kathleen Buscemi, principal of St. Bernard School, had high praise for Father Caputo. “His support of Catholic schools in general and this school in particular is unwavering,” she said. “He’s always available. There isn’t anything I ask him for benefit of the children that he says no to. To me, he’s the perfect pastor for a school.”
Michael E. Pizzingrillo, diocesan deputy superintendent of schools, said only a few select priests nationally receive the Distinguished Pastor award. The diocesan Superintendent’s Office wanted to recognize Father Caputo because he “is one who supports the school in all ways,” Pizzingrillo said. “He’s a pastoral presence to the principal, teachers, parents, and students.”
Geasor, who was principal of St. Rita School, East New York, for 34 years, is currently principal of Salve Regina Catholic Academy, which opened in September after St. Michael, St. Rita, and St. Sylvester schools formed the academy.
Pizzingrillo said his office nominated Geasor as Distinguished Principal, “because of his long and dedicated leadership to Catholic education in Brooklyn.
“This is the icing on the cake of a career that should be recognized,” Pizzingrillo continued. “He’s created the largest school in the diocese in one of the poorest areas. He’s been a supporter of our office, of the diocese, of strategic planning, and a 110% advocate for his students, especially understanding the inner city community they come from.”
Geasor said, “With this award the NCEA is recognizing not only myself, but all of the principals of the Diocese of Brooklyn. The principals, teachers, and board of directors are not just reacting to the changes in our communities, but taking this opportunity to improve our schools and ensure their future. The diocese is creating a model for the future of Catholic education, and the NCEA is recognizing our work in Preserving the Vision for future generations.”
Sister Joan DiRienzo, M.P.F., principal of St. Bernadette School, wrote the following in a letter nominating Meringolo: “She takes a personal interest in every child she encounters in the classroom and is able to bring out the best in each. She readily looks beyond the surface of the chronic ‘misbehaver’ or the complacent under-achiever, finds their talent, and makes a connection for success that might not have been otherwise discovered.”
Meringolo, who began teaching at St. Bernadette’s 23 years ago, currently teaches fourth- and fifth-grade ELA, fourth-grade science, and fifth-grade religion.
When asked the secret of her success, she said, “I love the children. I love teaching, and I teach from the heart. I try to find a strength in each child that I can work with. You can’t be negative in this business. You have to come in with a positive outlook.”
Meringolo attributes her positive outlook on life and teaching to her mother, who taught at St. Bernadette’s for 29 years and passed away in 1985. Meringolo and her sister both attended St. Bernadette’s. Her sister also is a teacher at Sacred Heart School, Staten Island. Her maternal grandfather was chairman of the Romance Language Department at Brooklyn College.
In her nominating letter, parent Maria Ljubich wrote, “Whether a child is at the top of the class or in need of special attention, Mrs. Meringolo will always ensure the children are learning and reaching their highest potential. She truly cares about each of her students, and it shows in their work and performance.”