On Monday, January 7th, the faculty and students of PS 196 dedicated a brand new “Block Room” to Maureen Sulecki, the school’s kindergarten teacher, who died this past October. A Greenpoint native, Sulecki taught at the school for ten years and was remembered equally for her passion for teaching and her colorful personality. Children’s clothing retailer Aéropostale funded the new addition to the school in her honor.
The school’s auditorium was awash in purple, Sulecki’s favorite color, as the kids remembered her in poems, essays and song. Every class had her at some point and recalled her warm and caring character as much as her lessons. They spoke of her vibrant clothing, makeup and ever-present pretzels and Coke. One student, Angelica, recalled that Sulecki was the first teacher to help her learn English and even gave her mother lessons, so she could help with her homework.
Just two days before her death, Sulecki was still working, recalled Principal Janine Colon. “She was a strong individual,” reminisced Colon. “She was very generous and kind, but also one of those people you would describe as a character, because she was very colorful. The kids really loved it, it really made her stand out.”
Councilmember Diana Reyna remembered Sulecki’s “love of life, teaching children, living and travel and how she incorporated those into her lifestyle. She was always one of those first ready and willing teachers to want to volunteer, to want to express to folks, ‘I’m a proud member of this building.’ A teacher like that that will change the life of a child. It’s a talent and not everyone has it.”
Aéropostale agreed to sponsor the Block Room after one of their representatives attended PS 196’s highly regarded Career Days. Because Sulecki was such a big part of planning the room, they decided to dedicate it in her memory. An appropriately named plane, “Air Sulecki” flies overhead pulling a banner listing the more than 20 countries the avid traveler visited in her lifetime.
Inside, there are all different types of blocks, allowing for an unlimited amount of creating and building for the children, be it houses or machines. Colon explained that besides helping to develop their creative skills, the students also incorporate math and architecture into their projects.
A plaque next to the Block Room reads: Maureen Sulecki: She strutted to the beat of her purple speckled drum; as she traveled the world, giving, loving, and always having fun.
“She was our friend and colleague,” said Colon. “We loved her and respected her.”
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