Mr. Lecci Honored by Harvard Club

  • FOR RELEASE by Nan Bischoff Harvard Club of Long Island

    Distinguished Teacher of 2017 

    James Lecci of Sayville High School has been named a “Distinguished Teacher of 2017” by the Harvard Club of Long Island.  


    “This award honors teachers who transform lives,” explained Dr. Judith Esterquest, Harvard Club of Long Island Chair of the Distinguished Teacher Selection Committee. “Devoted teachers like James Lecci offer Long Island students deep expertise, extraordinary talents, and countless hours of attention.  By capturing the minds and imaginations of our children and preparing them for challenges that were unknown even a few decades ago, these teachers shape the future of our country.”


    James Lecci will be honored at the Harvard Club of Long Island’s annual University Relations Luncheon on April 30, along with 11 other teachers from across Long Island. Following the award ceremony, Annette Gordon-Reed, Charles Warren Professor of American Legal History at Harvard Law School and a Professor of History in the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University, will give a lecture. She won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 2009 for The Hemingses of Monticello: An American Family (W.W. Norton, 2009) and most recently published (with Peter S. Onuf) “Most Blessed of the Patriarchs”: Thomas Jefferson and the Empire of the Imagination (Liveright Publishing, 2016).


    James Lecci, who teaches AP US History and Sociology at Sayville High School, has taught for 21 years, 19 of which have been at Sayville.  As a true example of the effect that a teacher can have, Mr. Lecci says that “I was profoundly impacted by one of my high school teachers and that led me to want to enter the field of education.”  He earned both his Bachelors in History and Masters in education from Stony Brook University.  Mr. Lecci’s contributions to the students of Sayville extend past the classroom.  He estimates that he has written 400+ college recommendations during his time at Sayville.  Also, he has coached football and baseball in the first part of his career.


    Outside of school, Mr. Lecci’s interests include theology, Disney World and reptilian pets.  He has studied Greek and Hebrew and has completed 50+ graduate credits at the Divinity School at Regent University.  Because his wife is a Disney fanatic, he visits Orlando at least once a year.  Lastly, he shares his home with his wife and his two sons, along with a bearded dragon, a red eyed tree frog, and a crested gecko. 


    Mr. Lecci was nominated by Shreeya Panigrahi, a former Sayville High School student who is expected to graduate from Harvard College later this year.  “I am very lucky to have had Mr. Lecci as a teacher and mentor.  Without his support and never ending faith in me, I would not be the young woman I am today.”


    "Mr. Lecci was one of the few individuals early on who helped me realize that I could excel at a place like Harvard,” Miss Panigrahi reflected.  “He motivated me to always keep my head up, to work hard, and to learn even if I felt discouraged, stressed, and/or disappointed by myself or others.


    "He also reminded me that although I should always be open to new ideas and opinions," his former student concluded, " I should never sacrifice my personal core values even if they differ from others’—an idea that has been instrumental to my personal growth at Harvard.”


    Ronald Hoffer, Principal of Sayville High School, echoed this emphasis on personal growth, saying, “Mr. Lecci is a dynamic and inspirational educator. Perhaps the most telling attribute of Mr. Lecci is his appreciation of teaching the most important lessons — those which aren’t directly related to social studies curricula; they are ‘life lessons’ and his students are the benefactors.”

    “Mr. Lecci is a master teacher,” says Robert Hoss, the Social Studies department chairperson at Sayville.  “He has gone above and beyond the stressful demands of student scores and directs his energy towards enjoying his daily student interactions.  I have witnessed on a continual basis an educator utilizing sound pedagogy and bringing a rich curriculum all the while maintaining an outstanding rapport with his students.”


    The Sayville School District has had one previous winner in 2011.   Kathy Bernstein, who taught math, was also honored with a scholarship to visit Harvard.


    At the ceremony on April 30, the Harvard Club of Long Island will also announce the Distinguished Teacher of 2017 who will also receive a scholarship for a “Harvard experience” at the Harvard University campus in Cambridge, Mass.  Past winners of the scholarships have enhanced their teaching by sampling the resources available to Harvard students: meeting with faculty; visiting research laboratories, rare book archives, and specialty museums; and enjoying visual and performance art. The scholarships are funded by contributions from Harvard alumni living on Long Island.


    This year’s 12 Distinguished Teacher Award winners were nominated by current Harvard undergraduates and then selected by Harvard Club of Long Island board members. This year’s award winners teach economics, English, history, math, physics, and science research. The winners teach in the Baldwin, Elmont, Farmingdale, Herricks, Lynbrook, Manhasset, Mt Sinai, Sayville, Sewanhaka, Smithtown, and Syosset school districts.



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    For more information, please contact: Nan Bischoff at

    Photo courtesy of Jo Art Studio

Photo courtesy of Jo Art