WHITNEY POINT, NY (WIVT/WBGH) – November’s Golden Apple Award winner is going to a teacher who has been educating students for 3 decades.

Renee Zennaiter teaches 6th grade ELA at Tioughnioga Riverside Academy in Whitney Point.

She says that ever since she was in the fourth grade, she knew she was destined to be a teacher.

Zennaiter attended Buffalo State College, and moved to the Broome area roughly 25 years ago.

She says, “I use humor a lot, I try to incorporate fun because reading and writing is not easy for a lot of these kids. And it’s hard. So I have high expectations for success, but I also, if they meet me halfway, we’re going to have fun.”

She says that over the years, changes in curriculum and standards have come and gone, but that the students are the one constant.

“I’ve taken lots and lots of student teachers and participators, and I always say they keep me fresh, they keep me young. Because you can get a little burnt out sometimes, but I try to tell them, what works is to use the students to gauge where you need to go.”

Zennaiter says her superpower is her ability to recommend books based on someone’s personality and background.

One of her students, River Schmeiske says that Miss Zennaiter is always willing to listen, and knows when her students need a pick-me-up.

Schmeiske says, “The good books she gives out, because she just always knows what book you need based on your personality. And another thing is probably that she just always has a kind heart and is open to anything.”

Miss Zennaiter encourages her students to read more than just graphic novels. She says a variety of genres can lead to a variety of interests and a growth in creativity and imagination.

Zennaiter says that she has felt incredible support from her district over the years.

This is her 30th year teaching, and she will be retiring in June.

She says she is very excited for retirement, but also has mixed emotions.

She is already looking into how she can volunteer and continue educating in the future.