Book Character To Be Named After Late Teacher
Year after year, students in the Northport-East Northport School District were lucky to sit in Leslie Spanko’s English class.
After she died suddenly Dec. 13, an outpouring of community support—to the tune of over 1,200 Facebook votes—through an online campaign to memorialize Spanko has led author Tim Green to name a fictional character after her in his next children’s book.
Green, a former NFL linebacker and defensive end who became an author and lawyer, met Spanko, 62, just two weeks earlier during a presentation at Northport Middle School.
According to school librarian Lisa Albanese, it was to Spanko’s credit that Green visited the school in the first place. Albanese said Spanko had read every one of Green’s books and dedicated an entire sports unit to her seventh grade English class. When Green confirmed the Dec. 4 visit, Spanko gave each student in her class an assignment to read at least one of Green’s novels before he came to speak.
“She told me, ‘Do whatever you can to make it happen,’” Albanese said of Spanko.
When Green came to the middle school earlier this month, Albanese was determined to introduce the slightly shy Spanko to her favorite children’s sports author,
Green, known for holding online contests where kids can vote to name a fictional character after themselves or their friends, extended the voting period so that middle school students could vote. On his Facebook page Monday, he confirmed Spanko will be a character in his next book, “Lost Boy.”
“I’ve never seen such an outpouring of support [as there’s been for Leslie Spanko],” Green wrote on his Facebook page Tuesday. “We all will miss her, but she’ll live on in our memories and also in ‘Lost Boy’, which we all know she’d really love.”
Albanese described Spanko as an inspiring, “unbelievable” teacher who could have retired whenever she wanted but, fueled every day by her passion for reading and teaching, continued her work at the middle school.
“She could have retired years ago but she came here every day loving to teach. Everybody loved her. She’s irreplaceable,” Albanese said.
John Braun, an East Northport Middle School science teacher, said Spanko was like a mother to him, constantly in good spirits and joking around.
“Leslie had an awesome sense of humor. I used to tell the students that when it would snow, it was up to Ms. Spanko to decide if we cancel school or not, so all the kids would bother her to cancel school,” Braun said. “She was just very inspiring; every person says she was the one who inspired them to read and really love English.”
In memory of Spanko, East Northport Middle School students and staff wore red on Monday.
“The Northport-East Northport School community mourns the tragic death of East Northport Middle School English teacher Leslie Spanko. Ms. Spanko’s passion for reading, love of teaching, and thirst for knowledge was contagious. Her dedication and kind spirit will continue to live on in our hearts,” Superintendent Mary Lou McDermott said in a statement on the district’s website.
A memorial service in celebration of Spanko’s life is scheduled for Thursday, Dec. 19 from 3-8 p.m. at the American Legion Post 175 at 68 Berry Hill Rd. in Syosset.