By Debarati Chowdhury
This year’s New Hyde Park Teacher of the Year is Mr. Dominic Gagnon, who has been a guidance counselor in the Sewanhaka Central High School District for 14 years.
Source by Anna Detke
Mr. Gagnon is currently a guidance counselor for the seventh and eighth grades.
Q: What influenced you to become a guidance counselor?
Mr. Dominic Gagnon: I would say my wife had a large contribution to this, and she was a fellow New Hyde Park graduate. So when we first met in high school and later on in college, I had the aspiration of becoming a police officer. I passed the physical test and graduated from the academy, and then my wife said, “I don’t want you to do that.” I said, “Well, what else am I gonna do?” She’s like, “go back to school,” and I’m like, “For what?” I had no idea what I wanted, and I was still at that age, too. I had four years of graduate studies under my belt, and I’m like, “I’m gonna be a police officer.” She’s like, “No, you’re not gonna be a police officer. You like helping kids, so why don’t you come back and become a guidance counselor?” I said, “Guidance counselor? I don’t even know if I’m gonna be good at that.” I wasn’t great in school; I had 80 averages, and I said, “I’m not sure.” She goes, “Try it out.” So, I went back to graduate school, I got my degree, and I absolutely loved it. A position opened here, and they hired me. That’s how it happened, so I really have to give that to my wife.
Q: How did you feel in your first year as a guidance counselor?
DG: In my first year as a counselor, I was nervous because I had teachers in the building that taught me when I was a kid. It was a little bit different trying to get acquainted with everything at first. I was very nervous because I wasn’t sure if I was going to do a good job or not, and I was even more nervous because I wanted to do my best, especially for the students. I knew that I wasn’t too far removed from their position because I was still young at that time. Yeah, I was a little nervous. I was a little scared, too. But I was excited at the same time.
Q: How do you think you have changed since your first year as a counselor?
DG: Well I’m wearing glasses now, so I definitely got older. I’m losing hair, I’m not in great shape anymore, so I’ve changed over the years, physically. Over the years I have gained more experience, and that has really helped me assist students, not only do well in academics but giving them life lessons that they can take with them when they graduate. I feel like I have a better understanding of where students are coming from nowadays. I think that’s how I changed the most.
Q: What advice would you give to the new counselors?
DG: The advice I would give to new counselors is that your success in this school relies on the foundation that you build with the students and the teachers in this building. You have to make the students understand that you’re a human and you make mistakes, and you will be willing to do anything for them to make sure that they are successful in high school and beyond.
Q: How has the pandemic affected the way NHP Guidance is providing help and support for students and staff?
DG: You know, during the pandemic, the world took a lot away from us. It took a lot away from us emotionally, physically, and financially, and I think the student body in this building hasn’t made a complete recovery yet from the wound. Due to the pandemic, the way we approach counseling will forever change because, in this day and age, we can’t leave any stone unturned. We have to make sure that we connect with every student; we have to make sure that if we see a sad face in the hallway, we should stop and ask, “What’s up? How’s your day going?” We should be more present in the students’ lives instead of sitting in the office. We should be walking around the school, popping our heads in classes, and greeting people as they pass. We have to be there for our students more than ever.
Q: What high school and colleges did you attend?
DG: I attended New Hyde Park Memorial High School and was a part of the class of 2000. I went to Adelphi University first, and played sports there. After my freshman year, I got a full ride to play at Molloy College. I graduated from Molloy with an undergraduate degree in Criminal Justice, and then I went to NYIT for my Masters in School Counseling. So I stayed local!
Q: Do you advise any clubs or coach any sports?
DG: I have been coaching varsity girls lacrosse for the past 12 years and have been head coach for junior varsity (JV) football for the past six years. I am also the adviser of the New Hyde Heroes club and of a power group for boys, where we go work out in the weight room and get our social-emotional wellness together. In the past, I’ve coached field hockey, volleyball, and girls soccer.
Source by Anna Detke
Coach Gagnon advises the varsity girls lacrosse team during a game.
Q: Do you have any hobbies outside of school?
DG: I have many hobbies but a notable one is comic book collecting. Ever since I was a kid I was always fascinated by "Star Wars" and comic books and superheroes because they never grow old, and they never change. Their abilities always stay the same and their mentalities always stay the same, and they’re always there for you if you’re in a dark place. My other hobby is adopting foster animals! I have several animals in my house; I have a horse in my backyard and his name is Lexington; I have a Jack Russell Terrier and her name is Libby; I have a cat named Emily, and I got two foster American Foxhounds: Kramer and Kindle. They’re adorable and mushy and I love’em! Most people are surprised when I tell’em I have a horse. My wife and I both love animals and it’s a great way to experience life.