Return to Headlines

Harvard Club of L.I. Names Megan Ferguson-Koci and Leonardo Rivera Distinguished Teachers of 2019

Mrs. Megan Ferguson-Koci and Mr. Leonardo Rivera, who both teach in the Baldwin Union Free School District, have been named “Distinguished Teachers of 2019” by the Harvard Club of Long Island.

“This award honors teachers who transform lives,” explained Dr. Judith Esterquest, Chair of the Distinguished Teacher Selection Committee. “Devoted teachers like Mrs. Ferguson-Koci and Mr. Rivera offer Long Island students deep expertise, extraordinary talents, and countless hours of attention.           By capturing the minds and imaginations of our children and preparing them for challenges that were unknown even a few decades ago, these teachers shape the future of our country.”

Mrs. Ferguson-Koci and Mr. Rivera will be honored at the Harvard Club of Long Island’s annual University Relations Luncheon on March 30, along with ten other teachers from across Long Island. Harvard Professor Matthew Baum will speak on "The Fourth Estate and the Current Political Climate," exploring how the media performed in their role as watchdog of democracy, with a focus on the period leading up to and since the 2016 presidential election.

Previous Baldwin School District Honorees include John Buglione, who teaches history, in 2017; Gladys Llanes, who teaches Spanish, in 2015; George Drakatos, math in 2014; Scott Dunn, music in 2012; Maurice Hayon, physics in 2009; Mary Fallica, history in 2007; Anne-Marie Taomina, English in 2006.

Cathy Rio, who teaches biology, was named an Honorary Fellow of the Harvard Club in 2013, and awarded a scholarship for a “Harvard Experience.”

Mrs. Ferguson-Koci

Mrs. Megan Ferguson-Koci, who currently teaches Orchestra for grades 6,7, and 8, has been working in the Baldwin School District for the last 18 years. She is the Director of the BMS Chamber Orchestra and personally enjoys playing the cello.

An alumna of Hofstra University where she received a BS in Music Education with a Minor in French, Mrs. Ferguson-Koci continued her education at Hofstra, earning a Master’s Degree in Music Education with Distinction. Her resume includes graduate coursework in Special Education and music seminars at Oxford University.

Mrs. Ferguson-Koci met her husband, who is also a music teacher, while completing the rigorous Oriff Schulwerk teacher education course that incorporates movement and dance with learning. At Baldwin Middle School, students depend on Mrs. Ferguson-Koci to direct and accompany them on music trips such as the Music in the Parks festival, held in Albany and the NYSSMA competitions. She has been nominated for the Grammy Educator Award twice.

Celebrating her love of travel, Mrs. Ferguson-Koci is looking forward to a landmark birthday this summer. While the family will miss Clementine Churchill Koci, their English Bulldog, they eagerly anticipate the sights and experiences of Cambodia and Hong Kong. Her long involvement with yoga, mediation and photography will add even greater enjoyment to this journey.

“An amazing woman,” said Danielle Davis, a 2013 graduate of Baldwin Middle School who is currently a sophomore at Harvard College. “She offered me constant support and a safe space in our music wing, cultivating in me a love for playing the cello.”

“She also pushed me outside of my comfort zone,” continued Ms. Davis, “to audition for the HS honors choir, where I gained lasting friendships and a truly enriching musical experience.

Without her, I would not be where I am today.”

“She taught me how to persevere and remain positive during hard times. I feel truly blessed to have her in my life and if you asked any student of hers they would tell you the same,”

Ms. Davis concluded.

Mr. Leonardo Rivera

Mr. Rivera graduated from Queens College with a BA, cum laude, majoring in Italian with minors in Spanish and Secondary Education and Youth Services. He then earned a Masters in Italian, followed by an Advanced Graduate Certificate in Education Leadership. It was a former professor/mentor who encouraged him to pursue teaching as a career.

Married for nine years, Mr. Rivera enjoys being home with his wife, tending to their garden, and feeding their two cats, Mr. Fluffypants and Mr. Foo. His studies of Asian philosophies and Chinese martial arts led him to offer Kung-Fu classes for several years prior to teaching.

Similarly, he remembers teaching English in Italy as a great learning experience.

“An incredibly innovative and dedicated teacher who brings life to language learning,” said Danielle Davis, a recent Baldwin High School alumna who is expected to graduate from Harvard

College in 2021. “Through Italian, he taught the importance of global awareness. He pushed us all to be curious about more than just the immediate. He wasn’t simply trying to teach his students a subject, but to teach us about life and the importance of knowledge.”

“He is the reason I’m working towards a language citation in Italian, and why I interned for a non-profit working to bring an end to global poverty,” Ms. Davis continued, “The awareness he has taught me has made me more passionate about helping others who do not have the resources and opportunities that I do.”

When Superintendent of Schools Dr. Shari Camhi learned of these awards, she said, “Ms. Megan Ferguson-Koci’s work in the Department of Fine and Performing Arts at Baldwin Middle School for the past 17 years has always been outstanding. This award validates her efforts to connect with each student and build the confidence needed for success, while also creating a strong sense of community.” She then stated “Mr. Leonardo Rivera’s dedication to his students at Baldwin School District should serve as an example to all teachers. He is innovative, involved, and is strongly committed to preparing all of his students to be successful in high school and beyond.” “We are extremely proud of the high caliber of our educators. The Baldwin School District is dedicated to excellence in education and leading the way through innovative and robust academic programs that prepare our students to become college, career, and life ready.”

At the ceremony on March 30, the Harvard Club of Long Island will announce the Distinguished Teacher of 2019 who will also receive a scholarship for a “Harvard experience” at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, MA. Past winners of the scholarships have enhanced their teaching by sampling the resources available to Harvard students: meeting with faculty; visiting research laboratories, rare book archives, and specialty museums; and enjoying visual and performance art. The scholarships are funded by contributions from Harvard alumni living on Long Island.

This year’s dozen Distinguished Teacher Award winners were nominated by current Harvard undergraduates and then selected by Harvard Club of Long Island board members. They teach biology, chemistry, earth science, English, history, government, Italian, Music, 7th-Grade Science, and coach cross country. The winners teach in Baldwin, Brentwood, Commack, East Hampton, Garden City, Huntington, Jericho, Manhasset, Port Washington, and Syosset in grades seven to twelve.