Mountain Echo photos of Lou Graceffa and Nancy Buckingham their first year's at GSA.
Retiring Teachers Praised by Colleagues
Two educators with a combined 75 years teaching our high school students retired at the end of the 2019-2020 school year after long careers at George Stevens Academy.
After directing an alternative school in Somerville, Mass, for six years, Lou Graceffa moved to Maine to join the GSA faculty as a reading teacher in 1977. That same year, he started the Outing Club, which is still going strong.
Nancy Buckingham taught Dance Aerobics in the Adult Education program for nine years before she was hired to create a Spanish program at GSA in 1988. She did so with $50 worth of used textbooks from the Oxnard-Union High School District in California. Nancy was very active with extracurriculars during her time at GSA, particularly those related to language and dance.
Because of the rigors of teaching from home after the switch to remote schooling in March, interviewing the retirees for an article was not possible. But here are messages and memories from a few of their peers.
Head of School Tim Seeley's Commencement Remarks about the Retirees
"We have two faculty members retiring, both of very long tenure at GSA. First, Lou Graceffa, who with love and patience has aided countless students through our English curriculum. Lou specialized in working with students for whom school did not come easily, putting in countless hours of one-on-one tutoring in addition to his regular classes. Anyone who has spent any time at GSA has seen Lou purposefully walking the halls seeking out some student who is behind, or needs extra help, but perhaps does not even know how to ask for it.
Next, Nancy Buckingham, who has also made her mark on the academy. Most notably, Nancy started the GSA Spanish program and is responsible for its curriculum. Besides the standard levels, Nancy designed a culture-based course intended for students for whom the acquisition of a second language would be especially difficult.
Lou, Nancy, thank you both for all you’ve contributed to GSA. We are a better school because of your efforts."
For Lou, from English Teacher Erin McCormick ’00
I don't believe Lou Graceffa has slept since he started teaching. In the nearly twenty years I have known him, I have never passed Lou's room, no matter the time of day, when he wasn't taking care of a student. This care ranged far beyond simply helping them pass their classes. He'd be there at 6 P.M. on a Friday night, returning from teaching kids how to fish and hike; he'd be there at 5 A.M. on a frigid, January Sunday, unloading fifty frozen teenagers from a bus, having just taken them on a two-day skiing adventure. Even young adults who had already graduated would return to seek his advice on their college papers, their resumes for a new job, or just to have a moment's moral support. For generations of students, he has not just been a teacher and mentor, he has been a true father and friend. He is the most dedicated, unselfish, hardworking, and compassionate educator I have ever had the honor to meet. He will be greatly missed, for he is most certainly greatly loved.
For Lou, from English Teacher Maria Johnson
Lou Graceffa is one of the finest educators and people I have ever known. In a scholarly, compassionate, and intuitive person, Lou combines the general education, specific training, and key skills that foster success in every student of our school population, regardless of ability level. That is a rare repertoire to find in one teacher!
As the Senior English teacher, I have witnessed Lou's blend of an egalitarian nature with academic rigor in his classes. He loves and values the skills of the English language, and he is incomparable in developing student ownership of their own learning. There is only one Lou, and we will miss him every day!
For Lou, from ESOL Teacher Kelly Cunnane
Lou: Have you met anyone as devoted and knowledgeable and willing to discuss a reading program as Lou? What student does not love Mr. Graceffa? We hope he knows this in his heart about a job done exceptionally and uniquely for so many, many we might not have served so very well as he has. Lou's outdoor leadership and devotion and honesty and presence have made our school what it is.
For Lou, from current trustee and retired Social Studies Teacher Bill Case
It’s hard to imagine GSA without Lou. Over many years, countless students have drastically improved their reading skills by working with Lou. Each year, Lou was so dedicated to preparing our seniors for their debates. Without him, so many would never have made it. I have many memories of Outing Club stories, my personal fly-fishing instruction, and discussions of boxing and baseball heroes of the past. In my 11 years at George Stevens, I was impressed by one constant: Our students and faculty always expressed a love for Lou for his selfless caring and incredible patience. I hope that Lou gets to satisfactorily answer his “What will I do?” question.
For Lou, from Athletic Director Larry Gray ’79
I helped Lou on an Outing Club camping and canoeing trip to Donnell Pond one year in the 2000s. We chaperoned about a dozen kids, hauled in all the equipment, food, and more. I shared a tent with Lou, and in the middle of the night, I sat upright when I heard some noises outside our tent. Well, it must have been bears sniffing around the campsites hoping to find something to eat. We knew there were five or six bears in the area. Well, after a few minutes, the bears got closer, and the noises got louder. Lou finally woke up, sat up, punched me in the chest, and went back to sleep. The next morning, he had no idea he’d woken up at all.
For Nancy, from French Teacher Joelle Florian
If you walked in the hallways during break or lunch to either check your mailbox or get a quick bite to take away, you could be sure to hear the cacophony of one-on-one interactions in Nancy's class. She was either listening to her students saying their required pieces of weekly Spanish conversations or giving a missed test. Nancy is a dedicated teacher. She is one of the hardest-working teachers I have met since I started teaching in 1985. In the eight years I have been at the school, I think that I may have had lunch, I mean a real lunch break, with Nancy less than on six occasions. And even in our combined lunch breaks duties, she still continued her quest with the students. I started wondering if she actually ever had lunch at school? She was on a continuous diet of correcting papers and exercises the students turned in. I found myself worrying about her addiction to work, but Nancy is relentless! She is never sick, tap dances, teaches choreography for our plays, sends students on missions in other countries, has fun in her classes, and keeps a high standard of education for our students, and she has quite a sense of humor to go with all this hard work. Nancy has been the one who brought a strong curriculum to build the World Language program at GSA. The students and our department will surely miss her.
For Nancy, from Spanish Teacher Patricia Ugaz
Nancy has been the rock upon which a solid and successful foreign language program was built and throughout decades has continued to flourish. Thanks to her great dedication, tenacity, and innovation, generations of students have had the opportunity to grow their minds and hearts by experiencing the Spanish world inside the welcoming walls of her class. It is with my deepest appreciation that I celebrate the labor of love and discipline of an exemplary educator, insightful supervisor, jovial colleague, and compassionate friend whose cheerful morning greetings and engaging ways will be deeply missed when the fall returns and the cheerful voice of Señora Buckingham is no longer heard in the halls. Nancy's footprints in the World Language Department will always be remembered because her noble vision came to pass and will continue on for generations to come! Congratulations Nancy! Happy Retirement! We will very much miss you! ♥♥♥
For Nancy, from ESOL Teacher Kelly Cunnane
Nancy: A swish of color hurrying with projects and ideas as colorful as her glasses and outfits bursting forth, held together with the high expectations of her students becoming authentic learners of culture, of language, and of all the possibilities therein. I will always remember Nancy filling tortillas on Guatemalan night; Nancy rooting for "some team out of Ohio," for heaven's sake; Nancy asking questions that needed asking, all the while her care and concern fueling those questions, her responsibilities, and her time. Thank you, Nancy for your colorful, creative, and high ideals.
For Nancy, from current trustee and retired Social Studies Teacher Bill Case
I want to congratulate my colleague, Nancy Buckingham, on her years of dedication to the students at George Stevens Academy. Her work ethic, paired with her caring about kids, was always admirable. No kids ever “fell through the cracks,” because Nancy was always aware of their academic standing. She gave up nearly every one of her lunch hours to help students finish work or take exams. It was common to have her stay after school until five o’clock to prepare for the next day’s class. Without fail, Nancy filled classes with teacher-student interaction and love of Ohio State football. On a personal note, I have missed our long afterschool building discussions of anything and everything concerning George Stevens and our students. Best of luck in retirement Nancy. You have earned it!