A special award for a special señor
Spanish teacher wins PV Teacher of the Year award
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As a child, Mr. Andrew Lewis always dreamed of playing baseball for the New York Yankees. If only he could have hit a curveball, maybe he would have been the next Derek Jeter or Didi Gregorius. Instead, Lewis decided to focus his attention on education, and eventually became a Spanish teacher at Pascack Valley.
After 39 years of teaching, Lewis has been recognized as PV Teacher of the Year for 2016-2017. He spent 38 of those years at PV, with only one other year teaching at Long Branch Junior High School right after he graduated college.
When Lewis attended Dumont High School, he took Spanish but it never developed as his favorite subject. After taking the required two years of a language, Lewis considered dropping Spanish. His teacher, Mrs. Janice Cooper, convinced him not to drop the class and to continue with a language.
“I said to him ‘No no no, you can’t quit Spanish,’” Cooper said. “He was good at it, just like a natural. So, he went on with Spanish. When he told me that he was going to quit Spanish, it broke my heart.”
Lewis later attended Rutgers University but did not have an idea of the career he wanted to pursue at the time. Lewis spent his junior year of college in Mexico studying the pre-Columbian ruins of the Aztecs and the Mayans, which really piqued his interest in the Spanish language.
After graduating from college, Lewis also spent a year traveling around South America, learning the Spanish culture. This was a perfect opportunity for him to continue practicing his Spanish.
Just as Cooper was inspired by her own high school Spanish teacher, she influenced Lewis to become a Spanish teacher as well. Similar to Lewis, Cooper traveled to a Spanish-speaking country to immerse herself in Spanish art and literature and to practice the language.
Cooper considers Lewis one of her favorite students. She admires Lewis’ intelligence, passion for learning, and his dedication to language.
“There are Spanish teachers and then there are Spanish teachers,” she said proudly. “I am just so happy to see that he got this award to be Teacher of the Year.”
Lewis considers Cooper one of the best teachers he has had throughout his academic career. A year after Lewis began working at PV in 1979, Cooper followed.
“I did receive congratulations from [Cooper] when she heard about the award,” Lewis said, attributing his success to her.
One of the most special moments in Lewis’ teaching career was finding a woman whom Lewis met traveling throughout Peru. Lewis had been traveling on the island of Taquile on Lake Titicaca. He wrote a poem inspired by a 12-year-old girl after having a brief conversation in Spanish with her. She was later discovered on a PV field trip to the island 38 years later.
Lewis considers himself lucky to work with people who were former students at Pascack Valley. Many of the teachers were Lewis’ students, such as Mr. Russ Grier, Mrs. Valerie Mattessich, Mr. Matthew Morone, Ms. Tina Marchiano, Ms. Courtney Farrell, and Mr. Jonathan Rose. Farrell now teaches Spanish at PV as well.
Inspired by Cooper to teach Spanish, Lewis went on to inspire Farrell to become a Spanish teacher as well. In middle school, Farrell never had any Spanish teachers that stood out to her and made her interested in learning the language. Farrell became excited to learn Spanish when she arrived at PV and had Lewis for Honors Spanish 2 as a freshman.
“He showed us his old-school slideshow with a clicker of his trip to Peru and I was like, ‘Wow this is amazing and this is what you get to do when you learn the Spanish language,’” Farrell said.
After that, Farrell had a newly-sparked interest for Spanish. But she was not the only one Lewis had an effect on. Many other students in Farrell’s class went on to minor in Spanish in college.
Farrell still uses the tips and techniques Lewis taught her to teach her own students now.
“It all goes back to that slideshow,” Farrell said, “Here was somebody who took the language and learned something in the real world when he went to this foreign country and showed that the language had a real purpose. I think it made a kid like (me) realize I could do that too.”
Marchiano had Lewis as a teacher when she was a senior at Pascack Valley for Spanish 5.
“I just remember that we always had fun with what we were doing in class,” Marchiano said. “He made us really interested in what we were learning by being so enthusiastic. It was always a good time in his class.”
During her time in Lewis’ class, Marchiano and her best friend were nicknamed “novio” and “novia” and their nicknames stuck throughout their college years. Novio and novia means boyfriend and girlfriend in Spanish. Outside of class, the best friends called each other this and had it set as their contact names for eachother.
“I just remember that Señor Lewis had great relationships with the students in his class and made it fun,” Marchiano said.
Lewis’ classroom is directly across the hall from Marchiano’s, who enjoys seeing her high school teacher every day when she comes to work.
Lewis recently retired from coaching volleyball this year but plans to continue to teach Spanish for a few more years before retiring from teaching.
“To have known all of these great teachers when they were students here is very special for me. I consider it a great honor and I am flattered and humbled to have received this award,” Lewis said.