Olivia C., Features Editor

Commack High School’s physics teacher Debbie Berke’s career story is filled with unforgettable memories and unique moments, which all began when she discovered her love for both science and teaching in high school. 


 “Unofficially, my first ‘teaching’ experience was helping my boyfriend’s sister with Regents Biology so she could graduate and she did!,” said Berke. 


Berke eventually graduated from Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute with a BS in Chemical Engineering, MS in Industrial Engineering, and a MBA. She was qualified to become an engineer. Yet, her knowledge of science and love for helping others led her to become a teacher after a career as a manufacturing engineer. 


“As a certified teacher, I substituted for a year before taking a full time teaching job at CHS. I taught physics every year at CHS but I also taught a couple of sections of General Science and Chemistry,” said Berke.


Berke’s engaging physics lessons often included hands-on activities; such as testing catapults in the athletic fields. Projectile motion was one of her favorite topics to teach, as she created problems such as; “The Lemmings” and “Spaghetti and Meatballs.”


“Projectile motion lessons were some of my favorites because […] students could relate physics to almost any sport. […] I really loved teaching it. It is an amazing feeling to help someone reach that ‘ah hah’ moment of understanding,” said Berke. 


Berke was always involved in expanding the education and extracurriculars at Commack High School. She created the very first engineering course offered here, called Intro to Engineering. She also founded the Environmental Awareness Club. 


“Many years ago a group of students approached me to form an environmental club. EAC is very proud of initiating the recycling program in our school,” said Berke. 


Throughout her years of teaching, Berke has also grown to appreciate her experience working at CHS. Both her colleagues and her students demonstrated to her how special her time at Commack truly was. 


“CHS is a wonderful community of students, staff and families that really care about each other and education. It was a pleasure to be part of it. Friendships that I have made at CHS will last my lifetime,”said Berke. 


Now, as she begins a new chapter of her life in retirement, Berke has some big plans.


“I plan to raise a therapy dog to visit schools, hospitals or senior centers.  I also hope to travel in my retirement. [However], I will absolutely miss working with such a fine group of young people feeling [a sense of] of accomplishment at the end of each day,” said Berke. 🔳