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East Neighborhoods
Post-Gazette All-Star Achievers for the East

Wednesday, April 10, 2002

Some high school students excel in a sport, work with a favorite community service or focus on their academic studies. This year's All-Star Achievers, however, do it all.

They are skilled in the classroom, in music and other artistic endeavors, in sports, in helping to make the community a better place. Of the many nominees, 10 were chosen from the PG East circulation area by Post-Gazette reporters and editors. Each student also nominated and wrote an essay about a teacher who has been an inspiration. Here are the 2002 All-Star Achievers and their teachers:

Student: Matthew Abel
East Allegheny

Student in gifted program; earned all A's throughout high school. Peer tutor and member of band, symphony orchestra and track team. Active at First Evangelical Free Church of McKeesport. Will major in mechanical engineering at Grove City College.

Teacher: Mary Jo Retzer

"My fifth-grade teacher, Dr. Retzer, made learning fun! She introduced our class to a variety of new and exciting aspects of the world around us. We each grew as individuals because of what and how she taught. Because of Dr. Retzer, I felt prepared for my junior/senior high school experience."

Student: Lindsay Costantino
Franklin Regional

Ranked No. 2 in class. Has honors or AP courses in every academic subject. President of student council. Drum major and member of swim team. Saxophone player, selected for several festivals. Will major in biology and pursue a career in medicine.

Teacher: Julie Shank

"I would like to take this opportunity to honor one of my most influential teachers, Mrs. Julie Shank. As both a mentor and my sophomore Honors Biology teacher, Mrs. Shank instilled in me an excitement for the biological sciences and, ultimately, helped me decide to pursue a career in medicine."

Student: Samantha Edd

National Merit Finalist who is first in her class. Member of Key Club, forensics, wind ensemble and concert band. Won Gateway Service Award for community service. Will major in mechanical engineering at the University of Texas at Austin.

Teacher: William Riedinger

"Besides making chemistry enjoyable, Mr. Riedinger also had confidence that I would be successful in whatever career I chose. Just knowing this was immensely important to me, especially at a time when I was not very sure of myself. His confidence has helped me to pursue my career with conviction."

Student: Jane Hereth

Top junior class member. President of Amnesty International Club, treasurer of French Club. Plays violin in several orchestras and festivals. Photographs appeared in local gallery. Volunteers at church, soup kitchens and shelters.

Teacher: Galena Istomin

"Galina Istomin has been my violin teacher for almost eight years, and during that time she has been an inspirational teacher and friend. She is a demanding and dedicated teacher. She taught me so much more than how to play the violin -- she has taught me about the expression and feeling needed to make any type of art."

Student: Carly LaBuff

National Merit Finalist and president of Varsity Club. Chosen as one of NextStep Magazine's Super Teens. Volunteers at church and nursing homes, plays piano and writes poetry. Will major in English or music.

Teacher: Fran Czmerda

"Ever since I was fortunate enough to acquire Mr. Czmerda as an instructor in literature, my affection for the study of literature has blossomed. He taught me to search, to really dig for the ideas that literature portrays, as well as to love the processes involved in that excavation."

Danielle Mianzo

Honor student who represented the state in the Congressional Youth Leadership Council's National Young Leaders Conference. Volunteers with the elderly. Editor of school paper, member of band and orchestra. Plans to major in cognitive neuroscience.

Teacher: Kathleen Cooper

"Mrs. Cooper has had a strong influence on me both academically and extracurricularly. Academically, she taught me how to type, one of the most valuable skills I've ever learned. Extracurricularly, she taught me responsibility through entrusting me to take on important tasks and positions."

Student: Katherine Newman
Greensburg Central Catholic

Member of Ambassador's Club and Math League. Winner of several Catholic student awards. Member of concert and marching bands and choir, school drum major. Girl Scout for 13 years. Will major in music education and become a teacher.

Teacher: Joette Salandro

"Miss Salandro is an inspiration in my life. She is a wonderful, supportive teacher. As a woman with countless experiences in performing and directing, she has given me knowledge and courage to embrace my dream of teaching."

Student: David Poeschl

Two-year winner in CalcuSolve competition; two-year member of the school Science Olympics team. Member of marching, jazz and symphonic bands and orchestra, sang in concert choir. Volunteers for Veterans of Foreign Wars. Will major in music and computer science.

Teacher: John Gula

"Mr. Gula, my band teacher for the past four years, is definitely the most influential teacher I have encountered. The most important thing he taught me is the meaning of 'mutual respect,' which has inspired me to work hard and perform to my full potential."

Student: Shelton Scott

Named Academic All-American. Volunteers with the Boys and Girls Club of Wilkinsburg, where he helped create intramural activities. Named All-Conference Defensive Back. Will study business at Slippery Rock University on a full scholarship.

Teacher: John Myers

"Mr. Myers is the right teacher and person for me to choose for my essay. He is smart, young, challenging, enthusiastic, and just a great all-around human being. I enjoyed having him for 10th-12th grades, and I give him a lot of credit for me making it through high school."

Student: Brittany Taylor
Woodland Hills

Brown University Book Award winner. Marketing director of school magazine. Captain of girl's golf and field hockey teams. Actor in school musicals, class president. Will study marketing and advertising at Penn State.

Teacher: Shirley Spagnolo

"Mrs. Spagnolo has shown me how to appreciate literature by presenting it in such a way that is enjoyable. Through discussion groups, outside readings and group presentations, she has introduced different ways to understand literature. Because of Mrs. Spagnolo's approaches to teaching, I look forward to her class every day."

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