Lakeland High School and
Walter Panas High School
Lakeland Central School District graduates can be found in a wide variety of occupations throughout multiple geographic areas. On this page, we will be highlighting some of those graduates while providing a glimpse into their lives after graduating from Walter Panas or Lakeland high school.
Visit our Alumni in Action Digital Magazine, it highlights more Alumni and their stories. If you are a Lakeland High School or Walter Panas graduate, please share your story with us.
Maureen (McCay) Hendershot Class of 1999
Lakeland High School
The apple didn’t fall from the tree…Maureen Hendershot, Benjamin Franklin Elementary School teacher, has the same dedication and gratitude for the District as her mother, Betty McCay, retired Lakeland employee of 26 years. Her mother taught her daughter the importance of a strong work ethic and the love of helping others.
Maureen spent her K-12 education in the Lakeland Central School District and now as an elementary teacher shares with her students her memories. “I never feel I am going to work, I’m going to school. I love teaching my students and knowing each day will be full of new experiences for them.”, said Maureen.
After graduating from Lakeland High School in 1999, Maureen received a Bachelor of Arts and Masters in Education from Sacred Heart University. As part of Maureen’s graduate program, she taught at Coleytown Elementary School, in Westport, Ct. That experience prepared Maureen for her first teaching position at Fulmar Road Elementary School, in Mahopac. For nine years she taught fourth graders. “I was ready to be in the classroom,” said Maureen. “I knew the importance of communicating with the parents and administration,” she added.
Maureen loved her elementary years at George Washington Elementary School (GWES), the positive experiences and her dedicated teachers were the reason she became a teacher. She was a shy student, and her teachers made her feel comfortable in the classroom and confident to learn and be successful in her academics. A philosophy she gives her students daily.
As a fifth grade student in Mrs. Owens’s class, she solidified her decision to become a teacher. She wanted to have a positive impact on young learners the way Mrs. Owens had inspired her as a ten year old. “All of the people GWES shaped me to become an elementary school teacher. As soon as I began teaching at Ben Franklin five years ago, I immediately felt that same sense of community and family.”
“From the moment I walked into Benjamin Franklin Elementary School as a third grade teacher, my colleagues welcomed me and helped me become acclimated to the school.” For the last five years, you can find Maureen teaching her fifth grade students. “Watching as my students discover new concepts, seeing them grow as learners and mature as people is why I look forward to teaching them every day” Maureen reflects. When she teaches a lesson, and the students are eager to go further with the concept or the topic... that makes her day, and when she teaches a complicated math concept, and a student has an "aha!" moment - the moment it suddenly makes sense to them - she realizes the impact she has on her students. “There is a true sense of community in my classroom. We always celebrate achievements – no matter how big or how small”, she added.
Maureen loved growing up in the Lakeland community and now feels she is giving back to the community that has given her such positive and rewarding experiences. Maureen is paying it forward by bringing in her children; James and Margaret to Benjamin Franklin school events and having them spend time in her classroom. “James and Margaret love helping me set up my classroom every summer, and meeting my students throughout the year.” Maureen beamed with pride.
Julie Ruxton (Rundle) Class of 2007
Walter Panas High School
The advice you learn in your formative years is often that which sticks with you andJulie Ruxton, a Walter Panas High School Alum kept that in mind when pursuing her dreams. Even though many told her that her chosen field was over saturated and too competitive, she remembered the advice of her Walter Panas Guidance Counselors not to quit and believe in myself no matter what. “The district has always supported and encouraged me to be my very best as a Lakeland student and employee.”
Her desire to help others began young and as early as her freshman year in high school Julie knew she wanted a career improving the lives of those around her. Melissa Smith, a now-retired Walter Panas Guidance Counselor, encouraged Julie’s passion for helping others and to never give up. Ms. Smith provided Julie with career options she never knew were possible and universities that met the criteria needed to support her dream.
In 2011, Julie received her Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from the prestigious Binghamton University. Eager to begin her career, Julie’s accepted her first job after graduating at Four Winds Hospital in Westchester County, New York. During her year-long tenure, Julie provided mental health treatment services to children, adolescents and adults, gaining a wide range of experience. While the clinical environment was a great learning experience, she knew she wanted to work with students in a traditional educational setting.
At a crossroads in her career, Julie turned to the woman who had helped her when she was a student. Ms. Smith helped Julie carve out a plan for her next move. She enrolled in the Master's program in school counseling at Long Island University and completed her internship at Walter Panas High School Guidance office under her mentor, Ms. Smith’s leadership.
In order to gain a universal understanding of student life, Julie also fulfilled the responsibilities of a substitute teacher during her internship. The additional role gave her unique insight that improved her internship experience and garnered professional lessons she would use throughout her career.
Upon receiving her Masters, Julie was hired as a leave replacement for a Walter Panas counselor. “Phil Kavanaugh was the Director of Guidance at Lakeland and was another mentor that always supported me and helped me find my next position as a leave replacement in the Hendrick Hudson School District Guidance department.” Following her time at Hendrick Hudson, Julie was the interim Director of Guidance at Haldane High School. “All of these temporary positions taught me the responsibilities and tasks you don’t learn at the collegiate level. In each position, I had different experiences with different demographics.”
Julie joined Lakeland High School as a Guidance Counselor in May of 2015 and was immediately embraced by the team. Julie felt as though things had come full circle. Julie is incredibly grateful for her journey and the huge part her education and Walter Panas had to do with where she is today. Daily, she is thankful for the positive impact she has on her students.
A rewarding moment was recently a senior thanked me… one of my students told me she was accepted into Harvard University and had tears of joy. Getting accepted to the university was a goal of hers and something has been working towards since I met her freshman year. Her mom called me and thanked me for all of my support over the years. That was a huge moment for me.