2022 Educator of the Year: Cindy Goldsmith-Agosta

Shyane Jones never had Cindy Goldsmith-Agosta as a teacher while attending Greenport High School. After their first meeting, however, a strong connection developed quickly.

“Our first encounter, I would say, was junior high or maybe it was eighth grade,” Ms. Jones said in a recent interview. “She was chaperoning one of the baseball games, so I just went up to her … I could tell she was really there for the students and really cared about everything; she put her whole heart into everything.”

The pair grew very close; in fact, Ms. Goldsmith-Agosta, a special education teacher, was such a strong influence that Ms. Jones — who graduated with Greenport’s Class of 2014, decided to pursue her own career in the same field.

“I am now in a master’s program at St. Joseph’s University,” Ms. Jones said, fighting back tears. “It’s been very trying but I just think about her every day, and I want to be just a fraction of who [she] was when I meet with my students and have my own classroom.”

Cynthia Lee ‘Cindy’ Goldsmith-Agosta

Ms. Goldsmith-Agosta died of cardiac arrest Jan. 15, 2022, just a week after recovering from COVID-19. She was 47. She had touched so many lives, in a similar manner to Ms. Jones, that hundreds braved the cold and gathered on the evening of Jan. 18 to remember her at a candlelight vigil on the lawn of Greenport High School, her own alma mater, and the place she’d taught for more than 20 years.

In a statement, high school principal, Gary Kalish, said her loss had changed the school and community forever.

“Our hallways, classrooms and community, will never be the same,” the statement read. “She was a beloved member of our faculty, a trusted and well-respected colleague who cherished our school and our children.”

Superintendent Marlon Small said she was an “integral part of the Greenport School District.” Another former student, Shanice Strickland, remembered her as “an amazing woman.” 

The school also took the special measure of closing for a day of mourning for her Jan. 20 funeral. For her lasting personal and professional impact on her school and community, which is still felt deeply, Ms. Goldsmith-Agosta has been posthumously chosen The Suffolk Times’ 2022 Educator of the Year.

According to her obituary, Cindy Goldsmith-Agosta was named to “Who’s Who Among American Teachers,” served as president of the local teacher’s union and was a member of the East End Health Plan board of trustees and Greenport High School’s scholarship committee. She also taught religious education at St. Agnes R.C. Church in Greenport.

After graduating from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte in 1996 with a degree in social work and human services, she decided to pursue a teaching career and earned elementary education and special education certification at Hofstra University. In 2001, she was hired by the Greenport school district, and taught special education at the high school until her final days.

I want to be just a fraction of who [she] was when I meet with my students and have my own classroom

Shyane Jones
Shyane Jones addresses the crowd at a vigil for Cindy Goldsmith-Agosta in January 2022. (Credit: Jeremy Garretson)

Fellow teacher Melanie Douglass said recently that she and Ms. Goldsmith-Agosta had been “kind of intertwined our entire lives.” Both attended Oysterponds Elementary School as children, and both later taught special education in Greenport.

Ms. Goldsmith-Agosta’s loss feels very fresh still, Ms. Douglass said. The students continue to mourn her and still remember her trademark phrases, including “You’re riding the hot mess express today,” which she said Ms. Goldsmith-Agosta used as a reminder to stay on task despite being a bit disheveled on any particular day or “task avoidance,” which she said Ms. Goldsmith-Agosta used to call students out when it was clear they were procrastinating doing their work.

“If you say ‘hot mess express,’ or you say ‘task avoidance’ to the kids that had her, they just look at you and they smile, and they laugh,” she said.

Ms. Douglass said Ms. Goldsmith-Agosta’s biggest impact with her colleagues, students and community at large was showing, through example, how to persevere. 

“We still talk to about her this day,” Ms. Douglass said, “I teach seniors this year, and we worked on their senior college papers, and I can’t even tell you how many wrote their papers on Cindy and her impact on their education.”

Previous Winners

2021: Melanie Douglass
2020: Dennis Deerkoski
2019: Christine Schade
2018: Rosemary McGoey
2017: Sarah Benjamin
2016: Emily Gundersen
2015: John Roslak
2014: Phillip ‘Skip’ Munisteri
2013: Al Edwards
2012: Daniel Goldfarb
2011: Major William Grigonis
2010: Jean Dempsey
2009: Robert Feger
2008: Charles Kozora
2007: Kathy Williams
2006: Dr. Stuart Rachlin
2005: Mattituck Fund for Students
2004: Ron McEvoy
2003: Chris Gallagher
2002: Brigitte Gibbons
2001: Barbara Ackerman
2000: Ruth Yoskovich
1999: Tom Brennan
1998: Peggy Dickerson
1997: Elizabeth Goldsmith
1996: Lee Ellwood
1995: Linda Gates
1994: Poppy Johnson
1993: Peggy Murphy
1992: Patricia Wall
1991: Charles Nephew
1990: Dennis Claire
1989: Bruno Brauner
1988: Winifred Billard
1987: Jim Christy