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Great Neck's John Motchkavitz is semifinalist for 'Top Teacher Search' contest

John Motchkavitz, a semifinalist in the Top Teacher Search national contest, inspires his students and is a role model as a volunteer firefighter in the community
John Motchkavitz, a semifinalist in the Top Teacher Search national contest, inspires his students and is a role model as a volunteer firefighter in the community
© 2014 Karen Rubin/

John Motchkavitz, a gifted and beloved teacher of Great Neck South High School, Long Island, is a semifinalist Teacher of the Year in the nation on the Live with Kelly and Michael Show on Friday.

Now that the 12 semi-finalists have been selected, individuals may vote once daily from various devices (computers, IPads, IPhones) until Monday at 5 pm, when five finalists will be selected. (Link will take you to the voting site and his nomination essay.)

Motchkavitz has made it to the dozen semifinalists from thousands of entries submitted nationwide. This is the second time his department at Great Neck South has nominated him, but the first time he has made it to semifinalist.

Known as "Motch" by everyone around his school and the Great Neck community where he was born, raised and continues to live, he is the chairman of the Business & Technology Department, where he creates opportunities for children to discover what is best within themselves, and encourages them to believe that they can accomplish their dreams.

The children literally build things and learn how to solve problems through their own inventiveness and skill.

"As the volunteer parent coordinator for the robotics team that is under his supervision and guidance, I have seen first-hand how Motch moves to create those great moments," said Ellen Dressner. "Many would say that a hero is someone who leads and steps up to be courageous in the face of adversity. While that is true, a true hero is also someone who quietly leads by example and embodies the compassion, strength and resilience that they hope to nurture in others.

"This is truly where Motch shines. In his world, both in and out of school, there is a place for each child and person. Individuals are valued for their unique contributions – no matter how small or different. While the field of education speaks of diversity and inclusion, Motch lives it in the ways that he creates opportunities for students to discover what is best within themselves and encourages them to believe that they can accomplish their dreams. In Motch’s world, there is a place of value and constructive participation for each and every child."

"Motch’s dedication to our school is unparalleled to anyone this district has ever come across. In all honesty, there is nothing that goes on in our building that Motch does not touch or help play a major role in. Whether it is our business club DECA, Robotics, set design for all of the amazing school plays and musicals, social committee to bond and welcome new teachers, marriages and babies into the Great Neck Schools community—Motch is always there," Sheryl Burger, his colleague wrote in the nominating letter.

Initiated and fostered the growth of the Great Neck High School Robotics Team which has resulted in the team’s success in winning numerous regional awards and the UL Safety Award at the National Championship in 2013. Created increased opportunities for students’ exposure to STEM areas through the introduction of numerous sections of high school robotics classes and collaborative programming with SUNY Farmingdale College so students can receive college credit for their robotics studies. He has mentored robotics teams in other Long Island school districts and been a leading force in the establishment of robotics programs in all of the elementary and middle schools in the district.

Besides academics, he is also a major supporter of athletics. Motch also coaches lacrosse and does all of the announcements for the wrestling matches here at school.

Born and raised in Great Neck, to us, Motch is known as the “unofficial mayor” of Great Neck. When we have new teachers enter the district, Motch is often the one that is showing that new teacher around the schools campuses, and around town, getting them excited to begin a career in this wonderful district. He knows everything there is to know about our town and our school system. Everyone in our school and around town knows Motch!

Motch is also a major contributor to the Great Neck community’s volunteer fire department. "He continually puts his life in danger to help others, and he does so without hesitation. In fact, he was one of the first volunteer fire department responders during the 9/11 attacks, along with the rest of his fire department. He spent days in the rubble, down in Ground Zero, searching for survivors, loved ones, and helping with the efforts. His best friend, New York City firefighter John Ielpi, was killed trying to rescue victims after the 9/11 attacks, and Motch has had a Senior Award named in his honor, which goes to a deserving student every year."

In addition to the many ways Motch has helped his students and colleagues, he has been actively involved in the community and a role model. In addition to serving as a volunteer firefighter for the Great Neck Alerts Fire Department for 30 years, he helps raise funds for an orphanage in Sea Cliff, New York, through the high school's "Lunch with Santa" event; volunteers at South High Schools' School’s “Midnight Run” collecting clothing, toiletries, and meals for the homeless and drives students four times a year to deliver the much needed items to the less fortunate; volunteers as a 7th grade religion teacher at Saint Aloysius Church for the past 10 years; volunteers as the lacrosse coach for the Sid Jacobson East Hills Jewish Community Center leading the team yearly to compete across America in the Maccabi Games; and conducts talks in local schools about the importance of remembering the heroes of 9/11 and his experiences as a first-responder.

"Now is the time to tell our home-town hero that he has helped to create many great moments and opportunities for all of those whose lives he has touched. Please remember to let him know in two ways: 1. Please vote for him on the link; and 2. Pay it forward by emulating his selfless and charitable acts," Dressner wrote.

Here's the link:

Karen Rubin, Long Island Populist Examiner
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