A One-Woman Support System

Bolstering kids with encouragement and enthusiasm

It was 4 pm on a January afternoon in Cortlandt Manor, and Teri Petrucci was supposed to be home. Instead, the  health teacher at Walter Panas High School was in her classroom and in no hurry to leave. That’s because she was waiting for a visit from a former student who was in town for his college’s winter break and had very much wanted to see her.

“I’ve been in touch with him since he left here, and I was glad to wait until he arrived,” she says. “I rearranged my schedule so I could stay at school a little later.”

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Cheryl Brown, a special-education teacher and colleague of Petrucci’s, says she’s not surprised Petrucci stayed. “This student went through a lot of struggles, and Teri was his support system,” Brown says. “She is upbeat and supportive and never says no.”

Petrucci started at Walter Panas 21 years ago as a special-ed teacher, switching to health nine years ago. “As a special ed teacher, I worked with some of the most challenging children we had, and it was amazing to be able to reach them,” she says. “But I felt it was a good time to try something new. As a health teacher, I meet and connect with all the kids. I like to see them happy. That’s what I’m here for.”

Petrucci is also in charge of the student government, a job that entails working with students to organize pep rallies, decorate hallways and promote club events. She also advises a student club that works with Hope’s Door, a Pleasantville-based domestic-abuse organization, to help end abusive dating relationships, and she works closely with the school’s Warriors Club, which aims to stamp out the stigma of mental illness.

Brown points out that Petrucci is also a great source of support to her fellow teachers. “If I’m feeling down, I go to talk to her, and I always end up feeling uplifted,” she says. “I don’t always remember what she said—but I know she always makes me feel better.” 


“I connect with all the kids. I like to see them happy.” – Teri Petrucci, Walter Panas High School

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