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Long Island teachers get back-to-school makeovers

On Thursday, Aug. 2, Newsday started work on transforming the 3 local winners of the annual teacher makeover contest. Style reporter Anne Bratskeir met the teachers at Sorell Salon in Roslyn, where the hairstylists pulled out all the stops. Then, on Monday, Aug. 6, the newly made-over educators were treated to a photo shoot at Newsday's Melville offices. Credit: Jessica Rotkiewicz

Start the school year on a fresh foot — even if you're not a student. Teachers, too, are looking for a revamp, as evidenced by the response to Newsday's annual teacher makeover contest, which drew more than 100 applicants. As always, there were many terrific candidates, such as the teacher who had lost more than 100 pounds but had no idea how to dress for it. Several wives nominated their “unfashionable” husbands for a redo, while other veteran teachers wanted a modern update.

The makeover journey for this year’s trio began on a sweltering day at Sorell Salon in Roslyn, where co-owner JoAnn Pascente pulled out all the stops. “Teachers, I know what they go through. Their jobs never end. I know how hard they work, and I just wanted to pamper them.”

About a dozen experts worked on transforming our teachers, and it went beyond new hairdos and color. There were scalp and shoulder massages, manicures, makeup touch-ups and even mini facials.

A few days later, the teachers were met by an all-out glam squad at Newsday’s studio that included hair and makeup along with fashion stylists who rolled in racks groaning with smart fall fashions specifically chosen for each of them at Macy’s.  

The teachers were naturals in front of the camera, and they’d be the first to agree that they’ll be going back to school this year new and improved, and with something even more unexpected: a discovered sense of confidence. It’s a no-brainer when it comes to grading their efforts and the results:  A+ all around.


WHO Jennifer Lahovitch, 37, of Sound Beach, teaches art and photography at Comsewogue High School, was nominated (unbeknownst to her) by her dad, Ray Lahovitch of Port Jefferson Station, who said, “Every time I saw her, she looked more downtrodden and exhausted. She treats her students and her children (she’s a single mom with three kids younger than 9), the same wonderful way, but she wasn’t taking care of herself.”  The teacher said, “I think my dad knows that I used to be very into fashion and kept myself looking very nice, but now I don’t. I just don’t have the energy.” But, she added, “I would love to show my female students that you can dress nice and look feminine without wearing skimpy clothing.” Her long hair, which she wore in a messy bun, hadn’t been cut for six months, and the color had grown out.  

CLASS WORK  Sorell hairstylist Jeannie Oh lopped off some six inches of frazzled hair, bringing her cut up to a stylish lob (a layered, longer bob), and color team Kathleen Abramo and Kristi Caiazzo worked on a two-stage color plan for Lahovitch. First: A warming, cinnamon base followed by rich, golden baby highlights. Added fun: A blue hair extension that she can clip in when the mood strikes her. Makeup artist Ellen Maruca taught the teacher a low-maintenance regime that included using a tinted moisturizer with sun protection and gave her tips on how to play up her eyes. Lahovitch said she admired the quirky Boho-meets-edgy style of Drew Barrymore, and stylist Samantha Brown pulled Macy’s looks that filled the bill.

WHAT SHE LEARNED  “It’s definitely changed me,” Lahovitch said. “Changing your outside appearance makes you feel differently on the inside. I was emotional after the whole thing because you don’t realize where you were before you make that journey, and it’s definitely changed me. Somewhere between baby number two and three, it all went downhill, and now I definitely want to take a little bit more me time, whether it’s putting together a nice outfit or simply blow-drying my hair.”

WHO Keith Burns, 38, of Levittown, a sixth-grade special-education teacher at Fort Greene Preparatory Academy in Brooklyn, nominated himself. “I am completely clueless on style trends,” he wrote. Burns has not shopped for himself in six years and hasn’t changed his style in the 12 years he’s been teaching — so that means donning outdated “dad jeans” that did not fit him well. His wife, Heather, described his fashion sense as “not horrible, but it’s not very stylish or interesting, which is why he chose to put himself out there for a makeover.”

CLASS WORK  Master barber Omar Grullon went to work on Burns’ somewhat unruly hair, creating a modified fade that's tight at the sides with more length at the top, along with cleaning up some of his beard, which disguised his good looks. Burns got his first-ever manicure and a special facial for men, courtesy of Irma Meni, who runs the new skin boutique Spa de Beaute, just a few blocks from Sorell. Our stylist was asked to slim down his silhouette with clothes that actually fit.

WHAT HE LEARNED "I gutted my closet and got a bunch of new clothes that fit better," said Burns, who was particularly taken with his new slimmer jeans. As for his new ‘do: “It’s the best haircut I’ve ever gotten," Burns said. "Omar did a great job and showed me how I can do it on my own, because I can’t spend an hour in the mirror.” Overall, he says, he’ll return to school “with a spring in my step and more energy.”

WHO Tiffany Jackson, 40, of Freeport teaches pre-K at Shepherds Gate Academy in Brentwood, and said she was stuck in a same-old, same-old rut. “It’s black pants and a revolving top and flat shoes all the time," Jackson said. And she had absolutely no idea how to wear makeup. Her cousin, Cassandra Jackson-Middleton, added, “If she’s not working, she’s with her babies. She’s like a supermom, and I think she can do better for herself; learn how to do her makeup and look practical, comfortable, sophisticated and sexy at the same time."

CLASS WORK  Hyacinth Samuels worked to blend Jackson’s two-tone color and then added honey golden highlights, finishing it off with a trim and curling the longer layers to add depth and thickness. Maruca showed her how to enhance her light eyebrows and taught her how to apply faux eyelashes. In the fashion department, our stylist introduced her to blazers to add structure, professionalism and interest to even her jeans, and broke her out of her black pants regime with a colorful dress. She even turned in her flats for some saucy red heels.

WHAT SHE LEARNED “I felt like Cinderella … on her best day, at the ball,” Jackson said. “I’m not very adventurous, but now I’m going to try different styles and dress up more instead of being plain Jane. I never thought I would be wearing blazers, but I loved them. And I learned a lot about putting on makeup. ... it was a wonderful experience.”

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