Beloved MCS teacher passes away
By Pauline Liu
Students, staff and parents gathered for an assembly in the Margaretville Central School gymnasium on Wednesday morning to mourn the death of beloved fifth grade teacher Dan Cohen. According to his co-workers, Cohen worked as an elementary school teacher at MCS for about 37 years. He was also a winning girls’ varsity soccer coach, leading the Blue Devils to the state championship in 2002. The work he did touched hundreds of young lives. Cohen could have retired a few years ago taking early retirement as some of his colleagues did, he decided to stay on because he loved teaching so much.
The cause of death is believed to be a heart attack, but MCS administrators say details remain sketchy. At the memorial, School Superintendent Tony Albanese asked students for a show of hands if they had Cohen as a teacher and almost every hand in the gymnasium went up. Though the event was intended for students in grades 7 -12 , Rebecca Miller, Cohen’s longtime aide, filed in with a group of red eyed 6th graders. “They wanted to come,” she told the other staff members solemnly.
In fact, many students could be seen crying as they came and left from the twenty-minute long memorial. Principal Linda Taylor explained that it was important for them to come together as a school to “share some sorrow.” Superintendent Albanese said he was preparing notices for students to take home to their parents to inform them of Cohen’s passing and funeral arrangements. “I don’t know about tomorrow, I will find out from the family what their plans are,” he said.
A former student of Cohen’s was among those who attended the memorial. Amber Endaya, who has two children enrolled at MCS, wanted to pay her respects. “I had him when I was in third grade and that was when the Fleischmanns school was open,” she said. “That was more than 20 years ago. He was an awesome teacher. He was the best elementary school teacher that I had.”
Longtime teacher’s aide Denise Williams also shared some of her fond memories of Cohen. “He has a strong sense of discipline, but the children learned from him, they listened to him and they had fun,” she said. “You always felt the excitement in his classroom. He was a great girls’ soccer coach and he was a great teacher, one of the best. My kids loved him.” Williams explained that her eldest is now 23.
According to Albanese, the school administration has provided help to the students currently in Cohen’s class. “We have counselors in the classroom and additional faculty members and they (the students) will be cared for the best we can,” he said.
Guidance Counselor Gary Robson explained that additional measures have been taken to help students cope with their grief. “We’ll moved our guidance office to the board room (on the second floor),” said Robson. “Other counselors and teachers will be there.” Robson said the decision to temporarily move to guidance office into a larger room was made because he anticipates that many students will need somewhere to turn for comfort. Two large sheets of paper in school colors have been posted in the first floor hallway and students are being encouraged to share their best “Mr. Cohenisms” with the rest of the school. The postings will eventually be shared with his family.
Students say Cohen will be remembered for his keen sense of humor and his dedication to his students. He used laughter and humor as teaching tools and was able to do so very successfully. He made up a popular game, which he called “Silent Seat Ball.” The goal was for students to tap a lightweight rubber ball and keep it airborne from their seats. The game was played in the classroom as a reward for good behavior. Students have already made it clear that there will be many games of silent seat ball played this week in Cohen’s honor.
Cohen is survived by his wife Kathryn, his mother Terry, children as well as grandchildren. The Cohens also bred and raised a number of large dogs known as Newfoundlands, which are very much a part of the family. Cohen marched in the school’s Halloween parade on Monday with one of his beloved “Newfs” on a leash.