Moriches Elementary School teacher earns St. Joseph’s ‘Excellence in Teaching’ award


Leah Olivo calls it “magic” — those instances of illumination a young student experiences during a lesson, practice or one-on-one tutoring.

“Seeing that lightbulb moment for my kids, when they’re reading or when they’re doing something they struggled with — it’s magic,” said Olivo, a Moriches Elementary School special education teacher who earned an “Excellence in Teaching” award from St. Joseph’s College last month.

“If a kid doesn’t understand something, I am researching and implementing something, so that I know when they leave here that I’ve done everything that I could do to help them be successful,” she added.

Olivo’s spoke during a video presentation highlighting her success in education. Produced by St. Joseph’s, it was screened during the College’s inaugural Esse Non Videri Awards Dinner in Garden City. Ten alumni educators from the College were honored in six categories. Esse non videri, or “To be, not to seem,” is the College’s motto.

The “Excellence in Teaching” category is reserved for an educator who exemplifies dedication, mission, skill, expertise and talent, as well as someone who inspires and motivates children through a creative and exciting approach in which students can succeed.

Olivo, who serves as a fourth-grade integrated co-teacher at Moriches Elementary School, graduated from St. Joseph’s SJC Long Island campus in Patchogue in 2006 with a bachelor’s in child study. Later, she earned a master’s degree from LIU Post.

She has worked in education for nearly 15 years – serving her first 10 years as a teacher at the Roosevelt Children’s Academy before joining Moriches Elementary School in 2017.

Leah Olivo’s projects

Here’s a sampling of what Olivo has done to be such a success in the classroom:

• Writing a course titled, “Visible Thinking in the 21st Century Classroom,” meant to model critical thinking through routines such as noticing, wondering and thinking out loud.
• Partnered with the local Wertheim National Wildlife Refuge to help develop curriculum and field trips experiences for students.
• Worked with the state Department of Environmental Conservation and the Pine Barrens Society to bring virtual field trips and learning experiences to students during the pandemic.
• Collaborating with PSEGLI on a program to create stories, scripts and videos focused on energy conservation.
• Spearheaded the “Wall of Heroes” initiative, which calls on students to highlight a special veteran in their life.

In her first year at Moriches Elementary, Olivo instituted flexible seating options in class, offering students the opportunity to use a variety of work stations, including standing desks, kneeling tables, couches, wobble stools, TheraBand cushions, rocking seats and other options, as a way to provide students a chance to burn off excess energy and learn in an environment that works best for them, according to William Floyd School District.

“Receiving this award is an unexpected and most appreciated compliment,” Olivo said. “To be recognized outside of my school community and family is a wonderful surprise! My hope is that this award shows my students and my own children that when you are passionate about what you do, the rewards are priceless!”

St. Joseph’s produced the video below that highlights Olivo’s accomplishments in the classroom. It was screened during the awards ceremony.

“Mrs. Olivo is an exceptional teacher and leader at Moriches Elementary and in the William Floyd School District,” said Moriches Elementary School Deirdre Redding, who nominated Olivo for the award. “Her positive attitude and love of children are reflected daily in the outstanding quality of leadership she provides to the students at Moriches Elementary School and her colleagues in the William Floyd School District.”

Top photo: Provided by William Floyd School District.