Southdown Primary School students have big hearts. They really do. There’s a great group of youngsters studying in the building’s classrooms this year. One of those sensational kids is Paul Grasso.
Third grade teacher Carlene Cournane loves her class, which includes Mr. Grasso. When she learned the youngster’s grandfather was being honored for having served 50 years in the Halesite Fire Department a light went off in her head and she immediately realized this was an opportunity to do something nice as well as sharpening her student’s skills.
Ex-Chief Frank Grasso and F. Rogers Ketcham (more widely known as Roger) are both being recognized for their long record of volunteer service to the community.
“Our class decided to create greeting cards to congratulate and thank them,” Mrs. Cournane said. The project fit perfectly into a unit on citizenship where the students learn about what constitutes a “good citizen and community helper.”
The two longstanding firefighters will be formally honored at a festive dinner on October 27, but it’s a safe bet that they will cherish the cards from the Southdown third graders more than any gift they will receive that night.
Mrs. Cournane is the oldest in a family of six children. She began teaching kindergarten in 1995 at the then Woodhull Early Childhood Center after obtaining an undergraduate degree earlier that same year at Alfred University. She married her husband, Jim in 1995, too.
When Huntington UFSD went through an elementary grade level reorganization, Mrs. Cournane moved to Southdown to teach third grade. She had an interlude as a second grade teacher in the building, before returning to third grade this past September.
Twice honored as a Distinguished Teacher by members of the high school’s graduating class, Mrs. Cournane is the mother of three children, the oldest of which just started college at the University of Delaware.
“I absolutely love teaching and living near Huntington and look forward to continuing my career here,” Mrs. Cournane said. She obtained a master’s degree at Hofstra University in early childhood education.
Throughout her career, Mrs. Cournane has always taught at the same school as her best friend, Pamela Schwarting, who she met as a 10 year old when her family moved into a new development in Dix Hills. “I’m very lucky to have such a wonderful friend to share ideas and teaching stories with,” she said.