As a beloved teacher at Medford Elementary School for 36 years, as a long-time trustee of the Patchogue-Medford Library, as co-president of the Hadassah Chapter at Patchogue’s Temple Beth El, as a scout leader, friend, neighbor, advisor and role model, Eleanor “Ele” Ryder has positively impacted and influenced the lives of countless Patchogue-Medford community members over the course of several generations. In so doing, she has more than lived up to the high hopes and dreams her parents might have had for her when, upon her birth in Auckland, New Zealand in 1946, they chose to name her after one of the world’s most admired women: Eleanor Roosevelt.
Luckily for us, Ele and her parents soon moved to New York. She graduated from SUNY New Paltz in 1966, did graduate work at Hofstra, and in 1968 began as a young teacher at Medford Elementary. In addition to her years of leadership and guidance at Medford, she has co-authored the Long Island Fourth Grade Social Studies Curriculum and published many articles on education. She was selected to work with McGraw-Hill on the English Language Assessment Test and has been a member of the New York State Education Department School Quality Review Team. She has received “Teacher of the Year” awards from Patchogue-Medford, Suffolk County, and Dowling College, as well as “Woman of the Year” awards from Brookhaven Town and the Hadassah Organization.
Some of the best testimony about Ele’s generosity and spirit comes from people who were 9-year-old fourth-graders when they first met her — many of whom are still her friends 25 or 30 years later. One such is Nora Alfaro of Medford, who writes:
“Being a first-generation Salvadoran-American was very difficult as a child. My parents hardly spoke any English. I had to go to school, learn and do my homework by myself. I did not have the educational support at home that I desired. Mrs. Ryder welcomed me to her classroom. I remember her as being smart, sweet, nice, kind, loving, respectful and polite. She made me feel like I fit right in and I felt comfortable in her classroom. She did things that no other teacher ever did for me. She went over and beyond. One day to my surprise Mrs. Ryder and Mr. Ryder went to visit me and my family at our apartment, brought pizza, soda and dessert. Honestly, I remember as a child being a bit embarrassed because I felt that someone important was visiting us at home. But to my surprise, I discovered that she was the most humble human being that you can ever meet. That’s why I admire her so much. I truly believe that Mrs. Ryder is the most beautiful, kind, generous, loving and strongest person I have ever met. One important lesson she taught me is to never judge anyone, to accept everyone, and to love equally. I look up to her so much and in so many different ways. Mrs. Ryder is truly the best, most generous woman I’ve known in this world.”