Teacher Feature: Mrs.Tambuscio


Mary Stanton, Writer/A&E Editor

For the last 14 years at New Milford High School, Mrs.Colleen Tambuscio has been a friendly and welcoming face seen around the halls. Mrs.Tambuscio, also known as “Mrs.T.” or “T” is the liaison for the special education department and teaches the half year electives, Holocaust, Genocide and Human Behavior, and Contemporary Genocide and Human Rights: A Call to Action.  Mrs.Tambuscio also teaches an independent study for Holocaust and is the advisor of the Peer Leadership group at NMHS.

“I love the school. I love the diversity in the school and I love being in a high school where you have that energy and spirit for learning.”

Pictures from Holocaust Study Tours

Previous to NMHS, Mrs.Tambuscio taught at Midland Park High School for 17 years and was a teacher for the deaf. She studied at Trenton State College aka The College of New Jersey where she earned her Bachelor’s and went on to earn her Master’s from Seton Hall University. As a child, she always knew she wanted to be a teacher since she was a struggling student in elementary school.

“I always wanted to help kids learn. In high school I got interested in teaching the deaf because I had a neighbor who was deaf so I was interested in the whole idea of teaching language. So I decided that I was going to go to school for that and Trenton State College was the only program in the state that had a teacher of the deaf certification.”

Pictures of various students Mrs.Tambuscio had over the years
Pictures of various students Mrs.Tambuscio had over the years

“T” grew a love for teaching the deaf and commented, “…[T]hat’s where I developed experiential learning strategies because a lot of how we had to teach deaf kids was outside the box and outside the classroom. They needed experiences to understand language since they couldn’t hear. I’ve always applied a lot of those kinds of strategies to teaching general education kids and teaching special education.”

Mrs.Tambuscio is also known for her extensive knowledge on the Holocaust and other genocides as she teaches two half year elective courses. “When I was teaching deaf kids, the state mandated the teaching of the Holocaust in 1994 and I had already been teaching my kids the Diary of Anne Frank, the basic things. When they mandated it they created a curriculum and there were a lot of workshops. I started to learn that deaf people were also persecuted during the Holocaust so I utilized that case study to help my students understand. Really, it’s to make the history relevant.”

A project students did for her Part 1 class, Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Behavior
A project students did for her Part 1 class, Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Behavior

“I just saw the lessons that come out of that history that I thought were really important and to my kids I was working with . It was also important to the general education population because they were unfamiliar with it and this unit evokes universal lessons like what we see today with the current refugee crisis in Syria. That’s what comes out of this teaching, unfortunately all over the world there are these violations. Young people today need to understand what the issues are and as a free citizen in a democracy, how they can exercise the right they have to help.”

To dive even deeper into her knowledge on the Holocaust, Mrs.Tambuscio organizes a two week Holocaust study tour around Germany, Czech Republic, and Poland every April and takes along with her those students who share that same interest. She travels with teachers and students of Midland Park and California.

A close up of "T"'s HST groups over the years
A close up of “T”‘s HST groups over the years

“In 1997, I went on a trip with the State Department of Education to study the Holocaust in Europe and Israel. I realized that when I studied that as a teacher, that I felt students should have that kind of opportunity. I felt that there could be nothing more important than teaching in the classroom and then applying it to the authentic learning sights of that time period.”

“So I said, ‘If teachers and politicians can have these kinds of trips, then who better to create an experience for than young people?’ It took a lot of funding to do, it wasn’t something easy to do, but it’s something that is life changing and I felt that was really something that could really help kids. It would help them understand the world, help them be productive citizens in a democracy and to appreciate what they have.”

Mrs.Tambuscio also has connections to many writers and historians on the subjects of the Holocaust, Genocides, and human rights to help with her research and teaching her students.

A poster hanging Mrs.Tambuscio's room addressing injustice
A poster hanging Mrs.Tambuscio’s room addressing injustice

“I think those kinds of experiences give students the intellectual exercise in digging really deep, which is not something they’ll get out of a textbook or out of basic instructions. I think that when they have these interactions and experiences, they begin to develop the critical thinking skills that they’re going to absolutely need when they leave here. It also challenges them to have an intellectual exercise that’s not about getting a grade.

“Unfortunately too much of our education and too much of this generation is dealing with everything you do equates to a grade. That grade is not necessarily something that is representative of a high level intellectual exercise. If we don’t engage students in activities, they’re going to have a difficult time when they leave.”

NMHS’s Principal, Mr.Lou Manupelli, remembers Mrs.Tambuscio when he started in New Milford as Vice Principal. “Mrs Tambuscio is someone I’ve known for many years when I first began as VP in 2007 and we’ve kept in touch ever since then. Since I’ve returned, I’m very impressed with how she’s able to do so many things. She’s an outstanding teacher in the special education field, an advisor to Peer Leaders, and she runs the Holocaust program here.”

“Within the special education world, she’s able to work with students of varying abilities and be able to reach them at level. As a Holocaust instructor, with regards to her knowledge, throughout the state she’s one of the leading people that works within this field to educate students. She’s a lot of fun, I’ve gone a few trips with her, and she’s extremely organized, knows how to have a good time, and always makes sure there’s good food involved. We are so fortunate to have her and she’s one of those people that makes NMHS a special place.”

A combination of words best to describe "T"
A combination of words to best describe “T”

Some of her students only had wonderful things to say about her:

“I love Mrs.T. because she makes you fall in love with learning. Even though you’re learning about really difficult topics, it really makes you a more well-rounded and educated person. She’s very passionate about what she does and helps all her students grasp how important this topic is.”- Natalya Malarczuk (‘16)

“Mrs.Tambuscio is one of the most caring people I’ve ever met. She gives her all to her students and believes in them.” – Joanna Zaccardi (‘17)

“She is the most wonderful teacher in this school and she will never ever give up on her students. She wants them to perform to the best of their abilities and go show how great they are.” – Brandon McPartland (‘16 and participant of HST ‘16)

“Mrs.Tambuscio is an amazing teacher. She tries to accommodate everyone’s needs and wants into whatever project she is currently working on. She makes sure that she gives the students of NMHS the opportunities they deserve, and the best care they can receive with those opportunities.”- Alysia Kane (‘16 and participant of HST ‘16)

It’s obvious that the students of NMHS love Mrs.Tambuscio just as much as she loves them. To follow the students going this year to Europe, visit the annual Holocaust Studies Tour blog here.