Council Honors 4 Educators for Black History Month
For the third year in a row, Hackensack’s Mayor and Council took time to recognize residents in honor of Black History Month. This year’s honorees, Janet Davis, Mark Johnson, Rodney Lane and Lilian Whitaker have a combined 100 years experience in education in the City.
Hundreds of friends, relatives, colleagues and current or former students attended the event.
Janet Davis began as a substitute teacher in 1985, becoming full-time at Hackensack Middle School in 1988, and has taught science and math, worked with special-needs students, served as a guidance counselor, a student council advisor, a home tutor and has participated in plays in school programs over the past 31 years.
“Teaching saved my life many, many times,” Davis said. “I learned that I have a passion for affecting positive change in kids at the middle school and I will continue. Since 1985 it’s been my please to serve, just to do my little part, and keep my Comets flying high at one school - Hackensack Middle School. This honor is the greatest in my life because it’s from family - It’s from Hackensack.”
Mark Johnson started his career over 33 years ago as a counselor for troubled youths and rose to become a supervisor by the age of 19. He has counseled troubled teens at Rockland Children’s Psychiatric Center but began his career at Hackensack High School as an outreach counselor at the Drop-in Center. He became an Assistant Principal for grades 10-12, as well as District Anti-bullying Coordinator and now is Director for the Drop-in Center.
“I’m a product of Hackensack, I grew up in Hackensack, I’ll do whatever I can to help these young people be successful,” Johnson said. “This is a special town and I brag about it.
Rodney Lane served 11 years at the middle school, 11 more at the high school, as an Assistant Coach to the Hackensack Comets football team, a teacher of special-needs students and a tutor of home instruction for students unable to attend school. He is the founder of The Learning Alternative Program and Gamefest and co-founder of the U.S. vs Them basketball games.
Lane spoke of never having an African-American teacher until college and of how Hackensack’s diversity is a welcome change.
“I started at Hackensack Middle School and was greeted with open arms by people who looked like me,” Lane said. “In terms of diversity, Hackensack was well ahead of its time: Black teachers, black administrators, black board members - Diverse stakeholders everywhere.”
Hackensack native Lilian Whitaker has an educational career span of over 42 years. She was the first female Dean of Students, and now Principal at Nellie K. Parker School.
“Being born and raised here in Hackensack, I consider it a privilege to work here all these years,” Whitaker said.“If I can help somebody as I pass along, then my living shall not be in vain.”
Mayor John Labrosse spoke on the many years of service the four have provided.
“That’s dedication. The City Council really appreciates what you do for our students,” Mayor Labrosse said. “You guys are great and nights like this really make Hackensack special. At the end of the day, we’re all from Hackensack and we get it right here. We respect and love all of you.”
Mayor Labrosse also thanked Deputy Mayor David Sims for his efforts into the Black History Month proclamations.
“He puts a lot of effort into this and he does a very good job,” Mayor Labrosse said.
“Black History is a monthlong celebration and I am honored this year the City of Hackensack was able to honor four educators with over 100 years of experience in the City,” Deputy Mayor Sims said. I salute each and every one of these individuals for this prestigious award.”
“It’s wonderful to see how full of energy they are and how fully in love they are with what they do,” said Deputy Mayor Kathy Canestrino. “I think that’s what’s most important to our students - that they get full exposure to folks who really put their hearts and souls into it every day.”
In addition, all four honorees received certificates of recognition from Catherine Best from Congressman Gottheimer’s office and the mayor also read letters of recognition from Sen. Robert Menendez to each of them.