Honoring him for public service, a group in Italy has "knighted" Bellmore-Merrick social studies teacher David Goldberg. NewsdayTV's Drew Scott reports. Credit: Newsday Staff; Goldberg Family; Google Earth Studio

While students at Calhoun High School in Merrick address their social studies teacher as "Dr. Goldberg," the educator now also goes by the title of “Sir.”

That’s because David Goldberg, 42, of Long Beach, was recently “knighted” by an 800-year-old knighthood organization based in Florence, Italy, that recognized him for his public service. Officials in the Bellmore-Merrick Central High School District say he is unique and is likely the only knighted social studies teacher on Long Island.

“I honestly respect him a lot,” said senior Erika Gallo, 17, of Merrick. “He is fun and he is very smart and I feel like … we honor him in a way too. He’s respected by all of us.”

Goldberg was recognized by Parte Guelfa, a knighthood dedicated to environmental preservation. It represents a community of distinguished and accomplished people active in sustainable development and building a better world, according to the organization. It was established in 1266 by the Knights of Florence, who received official approval from Pope Clement IV.

Goldberg attained the distinction in November at a two-day ceremony in Florence. He had been nominated by a friend who is also a knight, Malachi Halliday, of Dubai. There’s no formal application; rather entry into the knighthood is based on nominations from those who are already members, he said.

Other inductees included the former prime minister of Lebanon, an ambassador and the Rev. Bernardo Gianni, spiritual advisor to the pope.

Goldberg teaches social studies, as well as Voices of the Past, a class offered to students in grades 10-12, that is a joint venture between the English and social studies departments.

He is very active in social causes beyond teaching.

“This is not surprising from Dr. Goldberg," said Christina Cone, social studies chairperson for the district. “He is always seeking new avenues that he ... brings back to the kids."

Goldberg is on the board of NGO Sustainability, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting sustainable development and renewable energy that consults with the United Nations. He’s on the President’s Leadership Council at the Nobel Prize-nominated Search for Common Ground, the largest organization in the world devoted to ending violence.

He also serves as the board vice president of Peace Education Initiative Rwanda and sits on the National Advisory Council at the Center for Civic Education. He is the recipient of the Edward Weisband Award for Public Service or Contributions to Public Affairs.

“I always think that my students are my number one priority,” he said. “But these aren't separate ideas, what I do in those organizations and what I do in other capacities I bring into the classroom, and it gets kids really excited about learning. So I see this as a part of one larger picture. And they all sort of work together.”

The multi-day investiture ceremony included marching through the streets of Florence, past the Duomo to the Basilica Di Santa Croce, where Michelangelo and Dante are buried. Goldberg was in full regalia along with other knights and dames.

On the second day of the ceremony at the Palazzo Di Parte Guelfa, each individual is recognized.

“As soon as you were called up, there is a grandmaster that holds the sword over your head and puts it onto your shoulders,” Goldberg said. “And you're looking out at the audience. And it was an extraordinary moment.”

His responsibilities of being a knight include continuing his efforts to make a difference.

“It's an honor for me to be a part of it and I will try to contribute what I can,” he said.

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