Room 107 at Memorial Junior High School was once a place where students piled in from a crowded hallway for health class. Now it’s a place to remember a teacher who taught there for 42 years, a decade after her death.
The room, now known as the Ginsberg Wellness Suite, was dedicated on Jan. 24 in memory of Stephanie Ginsberg.
Ginsberg spent countless hours in that classroom. She met, taught and assisted thousands of students during her time at Memorial, and each one came out with a better understanding of themselves.
Her skin cancer was diagnosed in 2012. She missed multiple weeks of school during her last year at Memorial to undergo treatment, but her illness ultimately spread. She died less than a month after she retired as the school’s health teacher.
In 2013, a memorial garden was built in her honor, right outside her former first-floor classroom at the south end of the school. She was honored again last Tuesday – this time with the new wellness suite in her name.
“We’re here to pay tribute to Stephanie Ginsberg, who played a huge part in the lives of our students, in the lives of our staff and the lives of our administration here at Memorial,” Bret Strauss, the principal of Memorial, said outside the new suite. “She did for decades here.”
Strauss recalled how he worked with Ginsberg for just one year, when he joined as an assistant principal during her last year. He said within that year alone, he could sense the impact she had on the entire building.
About 15 years ago, Ginsberg started the school’s BRAVE Club — Believe in the Rights and Values of Everyone — an organization that fights bullying and promotes positive behavior. She also helped to write the school’s anti-bullying curriculum, part of which she taught in her health classes. Strauss said she also started a character-building program, which still happens every morning. “We still challenge students every day to make it a great day,” he said.
Room 107 was her room, where she impacted so many lives. Even after she was no longer there, the classroom became almost like a shrine. All of her materials remained in the room; the filing cabinets stayed filled with her paperwork; desk drawers remained locked and untouched.
“Stephanie was a hard-working, dedicated teacher,” said her husband, Fred Yutkowitz. “It was more than just a job to her; it was her purpose. She always had an open door and an open heart that allowed her to build deep connections with her students.”
Yutkowitz spoke about the BRAVE club, one of Ginsberg’s longest-standing impacts in the school. She was able to bring bullying awareness to the school and promote a safe environment for all students, he said. “She would be so proud to see how far the club has come and the impact it has had on her students, current students and future students,” he said.
Stephanie Haag, a social worker at Memorial, only knew Ginsberg for a short time, but she noticed the impact that she had. Haag said the school now has a strong view on mental health, which helped the new wellness suite come alive. The mental health staff has grown through the years at the school, she said, and shows how students’ well-being is prioritized.
“To be able to sit in the same space where Stephanie influenced countless students is an honor that is not lost in us,” Haag said about working in the new wellness suite. She and her colleagues are “honored to be here and blessed to have a beautiful space dedicated to the social and emotional growth” of the students.
Along with the space came a theme: plants and flowers -- with flowers on the sign above the door, the memorial garden planted in 2013 and the flowers and plants acting as décor around the room. Haag said they symbolize the mission of the space.
“They are a visual reminder of our mission to help students grow, flourish and blossom into their best selves,” she said.