He changed lives one student at a time.
A teacher responsible for educating more than 56,000 classes at Our Lady of Hope, enough students to make up for nearly 11 percent of Middle Village‘s entire population, is calling it a career after 47 years in the classroom.
Michael McHugh, a Flushing native, wasted no time starting his teaching career. He applied to Our Lady of Hope in 1969, right out of college.
“[Our Lady of Hope] was the first school that I went into and applied for,” McHugh remembered. “The principal was very nice, she interviewed me. She had me write an essay, she read the essay, smiled, and said, ‘Michael, you’re hired,’ just like that.”
As time passed, McHugh tailored and honed his teaching skills for the different classes he taught. Over his 47-year career, he has taught students in grades four through eight and worked to make learning fun for his students.
“I believe that many teachers are really actors or comedians, and that their classroom is their stage and the audience is the children,” McHugh said. “I always like to bring humor into my lessons. It keeps their attention.”
McHugh has even embraced the use of technology in his classroom, creating a whole new, interactive experience for students.
“Now we have fantastic technology with the smartboards and the computers. Every classroom has a smartboard,” McHugh said. “To me, the smartboard is like a window to the world. We might be reading about something in our reading books, and then I put it on YouTube and I’ll find 2-, 3-minute videos of whatever animals or situations we were reading about and it makes it come alive for them. In my opinion, I really regret having to stop because this is the most exciting time to be a teacher with all this wonderful technology.”
It will be difficult for McHugh to stop teaching classes daily after 47 years, but he is looking forward to what awaits him after retirement.
“I feel it’s time,” McHugh said of his retirement. “And in a way, I don’t feel as if I’m really retiring because I know I’m going to come back and do substitute teaching. I’m also going to do private tutoring in the neighborhood and I’m doing some volunteer work. I look at it as a new adventure.”
For his dedicated service to generations of families in the communities, McHugh is being honored with the Juniper Park Civic Association Lifetime Community Service Award.
“Michael McHugh shaped so many lives and inspired so many students that it is fitting that he receives the Juniper Park Civic Association Lifetime Community Service Award,” said Robert Holden, president of Juniper Park Civic Association (JPCA). “He becomes only the third recipient of the award; JPCA’s Lorraine Sciulli and Our Lady of Hope’s [former pastor] Monsignor Nicholas Sivillo were the others.”
McHugh is overjoyed by such an honor.
“It’s actually thrilling. It really makes me feel as if everything I’ve been doing has really be appreciated,” McHugh said about getting the award. “Not that it hasn’t been said to me before, but this is such a big event that it’s overwhelming for me.”
McHugh will be presented the award at the JPCA meeting on Thursday, June 9.