Renee Danette Petrola is an author and teacher focusing on her writing career after 43 years with the Mount Sinai School District. Ms. Petrola’s lifelong passion for teaching was inspired by her mother Phyllis, who had dedicated her own career to elementary education, and reinforced by her experiences babysitting as a teenager. After recognizing her gift for working with children, and already convinced of the impact that a talented and enthusiastic teacher can have on a student’s life, Ms. Petrola followed her mother’s path into the field of education. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in elementary education and teaching from Bethany College in 1970 and completed a master’s degree in liberal studies at Stony Brook University in 1974. As a part of her commitment to continued professional growth, she has since completed more than 100 credits of postgraduate coursework.
She began working with Mount Sinai School District in 1970, specializing in teaching literature and writing to sixth-grade students. Her teaching philosophy centered writing as a process for self-discovery and the development of communication and problem-solving skills. Ms. Petrola oversaw an intensive writing program for Mount Sinai School District that included both creative and research-based writing projects, and she encouraged students to self-identify as writers and creators by submitting work to contests and publications. Over the course of her career, two of her students placed first in the Walt Whitman Poetry Contest and several had poems selected for publication, accomplishments that she considers the highlight of her teaching career.
In addition to her work in the English classroom, Ms. Petrola was one of four teachers to develop and launch an outdoor learning laboratory program providing fifth-grade students the opportunity to study nature and humans’ impact on it firsthand. During her time with Mount Sinai School District, she also served as a counselor and conflict mediator, and taught swimming lessons to youth in the community. In recognition of her significant contributions as an educator and mentor, Ms. Petrola was presented with a certificate from Elite American Educators, named a 2010 Professional of the Year in Education, and selected to receive a 2013 Excellence in Education Blue Ribbon.
In 2013, Ms. Petrola retired from teaching to devote her full attention to her poetry. She has published four collected volumes of original poetry, “Woman on the Edge of Time” in 2013, “Primitive Dancer” in 2014, “The Healing Tree” in 2015 and “Fragment from the Shadows” in 2016. Her work explores human emotion and connection through relationships and the universal joys of movement and experiencing the natural world. All of her collections are available on Amazon.com, Inc., and Barnes and Noble.
Ms. Petrola is active in Greenpeace, her local ASPCA chapter, and with several cancer charities in addition to volunteering for local beach cleanup efforts. She enjoys jewelry design, meditation, kayaking and swimming, and is a tai chi practitioner. In honor of her lifelong accomplishments across disciplines and in the community, Ms. Petrola has been presented with the Albert Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award and the Marquis Who’s Who Humanitarian Award.