Harvard Club Names Pair Distinguished Teachers

Harvard Club Names Pair As Distinguished Teachers

The Harvard Club of Long Island recognized two Wantagh High School educators with the Distinguished Teacher award. Math teacher Jason Apfelbaum and art teacher Natalie Douglas were nominated by a Wantagh graduate from the Class of 2021, who now attends Harvard University.

The Distinguished Teacher awards are presented annually to secondary educators across Long Island. 

Mr. Apfelbaum is in his 19th year as a math teacher at Wantagh High School. This year he teaches Algebra 1, and has also taught Algebra 2 and Geometry in the past. Ms. Douglas has worked in the district since 2007, first as an elementary art teacher, then coming over to the secondary campus in 2019. She teaches photography and graphic design at the high school and middle school, ranging from introductory to Advanced Placement-level courses. 

“I feel very honored that students think of us and remember us,” Ms. Douglas said. “It’s nice knowing that you have an impact on them, but they have an impact on us as well.”

Ms. Douglas said that her mission as a teacher is for students to know that she cares about them, not just about their success in the classroom, but for their personal well-being. Her compassion is evident as she was even voted by seniors as the teacher they would most want to have as a parent in yearbook superlatives. 

Mr. Apfelbaum also prioritizes personal connections with students and recognizes there is much more complexity to their lives beyond learning math. He said he wants them to know he is there to support them both academically and emotionally. 

“To know that the staff in Wantagh have a place in the memory of students once they leave is probably one of the most meaningful things as an educator,” he said of the Distinguished Teacher award.

Principal Dr. Paul Guzzone had high praise for both educators. He said that Mr. Apfelbaum is very intelligent in his work and always finds a way to relate to his students.

“His students know how much he cares,” Dr. Guzzone said.

Ms. Douglas, he noted, approaches her students like artwork – just like every piece of art is special and unique, so is every child. 

“She has a keen ability to give every child what they need,” Dr. Guzzone said.