2011 EE - Awards

The 2011 Educator Emeritus Awards 

In 2004, the Amherst Central Alumni Foundation, Inc. and the Amherst Central School District embarked on an initiative to recognize retired Amherst Central educators. This recognition/award is titled “Distinguished Educator Emeritus”. The honor is bestowed upon an educator (teacher/administrator/counselor/etc.) who is held in the highest regard for his or her contributions to students while in service at Amherst. It is designed to embrace all staff grades pre-K-12, whether it is at the High School, Middle School, Harlem Road School, Eggert Road School, Smallwood Drive School or Windermere Boulevard School. 

Graduates of Amherst Central and current or retired faculty members may submit a nomination. The format requires a statement that outlines the attributes of the nominee to be considered for this recognition. It may focus on a single encounter of guidance or inspiration that affected a “student” or a series of efforts over the course of a year or years that exemplifies dedication to education at Amherst Central. The Alumni Foundation members greatly value the contributions of these educators at each grade level and every year we receive many letters, which is certainly a tribute to all of the former teachers and administrators who have served over the years in the Amherst Central School District.

The 1st Distinguished Educator Award was presented in 2004 to retired Amherst High School Principal, Donald Munson. Since then, we have recognized a total of 12 retired teachers and administrators. This year's recipients were honored at a cocktail/buffet reception at The Sonoma Grille on October 27th. Co-Chairs for this year's event, Ginny Rusk '71 and Robert Laskie '57, along with ACAF President, Mark Ahrens '73, introduced the presenters and honorees.

The 2011 Educator Emeritus Awards recipients were: 

Joseph Podgorski

The longest serving Principal of Amherst Central High School (1980-2005), Mr. Podgorski spent 3 years as Assistant Principal before being promoted to Principal upon the retirement of Don Munson. During his administrative tenure, Joe oversaw the merger of the 9th grade into the High School in 1984, the development of the BOSS (Building Opportunities for Student Success) Program and SAFE integrating the areas of Health, Physical Education and Guidance into one scheduled program for all students. By and large, his favorite extracurricular involvement was with the formation of the Italian Exchange Program. From its beginnings in 1987, hundreds of Amherst students have participated in this reciprocal home-stay trip to Bolzano, Italy and lifelong friendships lifelong friendships have been the outcome for students from both countries. When asked for his most important accomplishments, Joe states that two are closely intertwined: “maintaining high academic standards” and “hiring excellent teachers to replace the teachers who leave.” Since retiring from Amherst in 2005, Joe works in the capacity of Teacher Education Associate at the University of Buffalo and also serves as the President of the Amherst Retired Teachers Association. 

Ellwood Friedrich

High School Math Teacher (1962-1996) as well as High School Math Department Chair (1984-1994) “Woody” is also an alumnus -- having graduated from Amherst High School in 1955. Moreover, all three of his children graduated from Amherst High: Susan ’81, Chip ’83 and Elizabeth ’84. He was a pioneer in the area of computer instruction in the 1970’s. Outside the classroom, Woody coached the Varsity Rifle Team, JV Soccer & JV Baseball; Student Council Advisor, and Band Co-Chair. In addition, he was the class advisor for the Classes of 1969, 1972, 1980, and co-advisor for the Class of 1993. With the Amherst Education Association, Woody served as school representative, Vice President for 2 years and Treasurer for 12 years. Mr. Friedrich has been inducted in the Amherst Athletic Hall of Fame and supports the Amherst Central Alumni Foundation, Inc. through his role as Class Director for his Class of 1955.

Gary Runckel

A 1954 graduate of Amherst High School, Mr. Runckel started his career in teaching in the Williamsville Schools where he taught Industrial Arts before becoming a guidance counselor. He joined the staff at Amherst High School in 1972 where he served as both a counselor and Chairman of Student Services. Gary coached Boys JV soccer (1972-1982) and in 1979 established the Girls soccer program at the High School where he remained as coach until 1994. Gary is a member of the Amherst Athletic Hall of Fame and Amherst Retired Teachers Association. He & his wife Joan (Rindfleisch) Runckel are active members of ACAF, Inc. They serve as Co-Class Directors and reunion planners for the Class of 1954 and assist with the Annual ACAF Golf Classic. 

Valerie McGovern

Mrs. McGovern began her teaching career in 1968 at the former Eggert Road Elementary School where she worked until it closed in 1982. She then transferred to Windermere Boulevard School and taught there until she retired in 2002 after a total of 33 years of teaching in the district. Outside the classroom, Val was a member of the the WBS Leadership Team and served on numerous Curriculum Councils and hiring committees. For 10 years, she was a building representative for the Amherst Education Association. Valerie is married to Amherst alum, Terry McGovern '62, who taught for 35 years at the Smallwood Drive School. Their children, Michael '93 and Geoffrey '98 are both graduates of Amherst. Since retiring, Valerie served for 5 years as Secretary of the Amherst Retired Teachers Association and currently is the Membership Chair for the Amherst Federal Credit Union.