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Former NFL player to honor deceased teacher in novel

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Long Island Middle School teacher Leslie Spanko inspired students when she was alive and continues to motivate former students and colleagues in death. The school community is “waging an online campaign to get a character in an upcoming novel named after her,” according to yesterday's Newsday's article, East Northport students lobby for beloved teacher. Tonight their efforts were successful.

Former NFL first round pick with the Atlanta Falcons and now a New York Times Bestsellers author, Tim Green conducted a poll on his Facebook page for fans to name a character in his next novel. Tonight he announced on his Facebook page, “We all will miss her, but she'll live on in our memories and also in Lost Boy, which we all know she'd really love.”

Leslie Spanko's name will live on in fiction and so will runner up name, Jason Anton. Green will try to find a place for the third place winning name, Giovanni Castilioni.

Green-Spanko connection

Green spoke two weeks ago at the East Northport Middle School where he met students and staff including Spanko, a seventh grade English teacher. “He mentioned that he was holding a contest on his Facebook page to name a character -- a lawyer for a fictional Major League Baseball player -- based on how many people ‘liked’ different names submitted to his page,” Newsday reports. Spanko’s colleagues submitted her name as a way to remember her.

The contest provides fans of Spanko, who passed away at age 62 unexpectedly on Friday from a possible stroke, a way to honor her memory. Although Spanko already had enough winning votes yesterday, Green extended the contest into today so more middle schoolers could participate.

Spanko and Green had three major things in common:

  • Both are/were sports fans
  • Both have/had fans of their own
  • Both values/valued education.

Green is also a lawyer and writer and Spanko made education her career. Books are/were a key part of both of their lives.

Ways to thank teachers who make a difference

Good teachers can instill a love of learning, provide tools for success and motivate to achieve goals. These are gifts that keep giving in and out of the classroom. Voting to name a character in a story is a great way to honor a teacher. Students and parents wanting to thank other great teachers now also could:

  1. Say “thank you” directly to the teacher.
  2. Write a note of thanks and send it to the teacher.
  3. Voice a compliment to the teacher’s boss, usually the principal.
  4. Be creative and make a gift that incorporates what the student has learned. For example, if the student is studying poetry-write a poem.
  5. Demonstrate motivation For example, compile a list of interesting but not well-known facts in the teacher’s subject area.
  6. Give back and ask the teacher what she or he needs. Maybe the teacher is looking for peer tutors or needs some help in setting up a project.

When showing appreciation, be specific about how the teacher has helped. Since teachers also write recommendation letters for the college-bound, it is fitting that students express their own detailed gratitude. Watch the video to learn about celebrities who were once teachers.

To receive notification about future articles of concern to parents of the college-bound, click on "Subscribe" near the above photos. Please let me know via Twitter and in the comments section below your thoughts about honoring and thanking great teachers.

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