Marguerite Izzo thought she was attending a state test pep rally Friday.
As it turns out, there was already something to celebrate.
The fifth-grade teacher at Lynbrook's Davison Avenue Intermediate School, part of the Malverne Union Free School District, was surprised in front of the entire school with news that she had been selected for induction into the Emporia, Kan.-based National Teachers Hall of Fame.
"To walk into the gym today and see those children and my name announced… it felt surreal," said Izzo, 58, of Malverne. "But you know, this isn't about one teacher, this is about honoring the teaching profession.”
Izzo, the 2007 New York State Teacher of the Year, serves on the board of directors of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year and has worked with the New York State Education Department to bring the voice of teachers to policymakers. She will be formally inducted on June 13 in Emporia.
Izzo was nominated by Katherine Bassett, CEO of the National Network of State Teachers of the Year. Carol Strickland, executive director of the Hall, gave Izzo the news.
"I've known her since 2007, so I know how phenominal of a teacher she is," said Strickland, of Emporia. "The fact that she engages her students, mentors other teachers and is a strong advocate for education makes her a perfect fit."
Izzo is among the five teachers inducted this year, but the only one from New York State.
Davison Avenue principal Edward Tallon said that without fail Izzo brings enthusiasm and passion to her classroom every day.
"She's an inspiration to her students and the faculty," he said. "We truly are honored to have her and we're so proud of her."
One of Izzo’s students, Jahzeel Caban, values her teaching so much she wrote an essay that was included in the hall of fame application. On Friday she spoke about how Izzo is willing to be silly and make funny faces to make students less apprehensive about speaking in front of the class.
"She's the best teacher," said Jahzeel, 10, of Lynbrook. "She helps us with our work and treats us like scholars. I've been getting 80s, 90s and 100 in class."
Another part of the surprise was a fourth-grade class that offered their rendition of the Pharrell Williams hit song "Happy," which she happily sang and danced along to with them.
"I hope you all find a job that brings you joy and happiness. That's what I wish for you," she told the school’s students before the song. "Being a teacher is the best job in the world. The best."