Orient woman honored for years of service to Shelter Island’s students

It’s not frequent that a school district celebrates a staff member who leaves not for retirement, but a job in another town.

But Guidance Director Martha Tuthill’s more than seven years of helping Shelter Island students to find their paths in life comes to an end July 7, amidst praise from many for the positive impact she’s had.

Ms. Tuthill, who lives in Orient, is bound for Southampton School District as Director of Counseling, where she will be creating programs for a comprehensive school counseling program for all district students.

At a recent Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Brian Doelger, Ed.D., announced Ms. Tuthill would be leaving the district as of July 7, calling her impact on Shelter Island significant.

He shared an example, noting that a student who hadn’t planned to go to college was now accepted and received financial aid because Ms. Tuthill took the initiative to drive the student to the college campus on her own time and helped to engineer the student’s acceptance.

Board member Kathleen Lynch credited Ms. Tuthill with having a strong impact on her children and called her “just amazing.” Other Board members had similar praise for Ms. Tuthill.

“I’ll miss not working directly with the students, but hope to help them in a different way,” Ms. Tuthill said. ”I’ll also miss the close-knit Shelter Island community, the students and my co-workers.”

Shelter Island School has been a wonderful place to work, Ms. Tuthill added. “I always looked forward to coming to work and it was a privilege working with the students and families in this district,” she said. “I feel blessed to have been a part of this special community and Island.”

At the same time, the new job will allow her to grow professionally, she added.

With her youngest child having just graduated from college, she said this is a perfect time for her to make the transition with the time to devote to the new position.

She recently completed her administrative degree at Stony Brook University and is pursuing a doctorate in administration at St. John’s University. Her dissertation topic is English as a New Language (ENL) education.

The subject was previously referred to as English as a second language designed for teaching the language to those from other countries whose native language was something other than English. It emphasizes areas of English language acquisition taught in English with specific instructional strategies.

At the June 24 graduation ceremony, Mr. Doelger again praised Ms. Tuthill for her contribution to the District, noting the position she assumes in Southampton represents a significant promotion.

She came to Shelter Island in February 2015, having worked in the Greenport School District for five years, initially as an intern in the guidance department, then as a substitute teacher, a transition counselor and eventually a kindergarten through 8th grade guidance counselor. She had also been Board of Education president in the Oysterponds School District, which includes East Marion and Orient.

When she came to the Island, she initiated the DECA (Distributive Education Clubs of America) Business Club with math teacher James Theinert. Together, the pair prepared students to enter DECA competitions, which involved public speaking, writing and development of business skills. They learned to prepare presentations that required knowledge of many areas, including marketing.

That was a subject that Ms. Tuthill knew a great deal about; following college where she had started studying social work, she changed her major to marketing and communications and started a career in New York City for a financial company. “Looking back, I started college as a social work major because I wanted to help people,” Ms. Tuthill said.

When Ms. Tuthill made the transition from Greenport, she approached the North Fork School Business Advisory Board about bringing Shelter Island into the fold. That group provides programs to give students a taste of jobs that might interest them in terms of future careers.

More than a few students who completed a job program ended up taking summer and after-school jobs with companies they had visited, and some ended up in post-graduation jobs that had started that way.

Ms. Tuthill also organized a spring job fair on the Island for students to connect with companies on the Island in need of seasonal help. Again, what started as a summer job, sometimes led to eventual post-graduation jobs.

“I love helping students navigate school and plan for the future,” Ms. Tuthill said.