Renee Diamond, Teacher from UFT
* Retired teacher
“Think of yourself as a sunflower — the tallest, biggest and most beautiful flower in the garden,” Renee Diamond counseled a 1st-grader who was being picked on in 1985. “The sunflower,” Renee told her, “gets kissed by the sun first so it will have the energy to watch over all the other flowers in the garden.”
To this day, Florence Trombley, that former 1st-grader who has stayed in touch through the years, remembers every word of her teacher’s advice. “She was my absolute favorite teacher,” Trombley said. “She saw my potential, had faith in me and gave me the confidence to be the person I am today. I have several sunflower tattoos because of that and I proudly stand 6 feet tall.”
Renee, 73, died on May 11.
She began her 25-year career in 1968 as a first-grade teacher at PS 25 in Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. She went on maternity leave in 1975 and resumed her career eight years later at PS 134 in Hollis, Queens, teaching there until her retirement in 2003. She also tutored PS 134 students living in homeless shelters and, in 2004-2005, served as a technical grant facilitator for Districts 16 and 23 in Brooklyn and District 27 in Queens.
During a virtual memorial attended by 160 people on May 17, former students shared memories.
“We loved her,” Cynthia LaBorde said of her class in 1971. “Mrs. Diamond made learning serious and fun. Although she hardly ever raised her voice, on occasion she would calm everything down with her signature ‘Wait a MO-ment!’” At LaBorde’s invitation, Renee returned during her maternity leave to celebrate the class’s 6th-grade graduation.
Over the years, LaBorde stayed in touch through phone calls and notes. “She was what I call one of my tent poles, supporting me through good and bad times,” LaBorde said. “She enriched my life in ways that continue to reveal themselves.”
Tamara Blocker, a member of the 1st-grade class of 1985, visited Renee in the nursing home shortly before she died. As they reminisced, Blocker remembered the time she was afraid to answer a question. “Mrs. Diamond put both palms on my cheeks,” she said, “and told me, ‘Sweetie, you can do it.’”
“Every child loved being in her class,” Blocker said. “They loved her compassionate, loving smile and open arms and knew she valued what they had to say.”
Friend and colleague Judy Cohn remembers Renee as a teacher who was beloved by her students and their families. “Renee always encouraged and supported her students,” Cohn said, “and often told them, ‘If nobody can listen to you read, then read to your mirror.’”
A three-time breast cancer survivor, Renee was a judge for Long Island History Day and a board member for the Hollis Hills Civic Association.
She is survived by her husband Cary, a retired social studies teacher; her daughters, Allison and Melissa Diamond; her grandchildren, Eva, Ruby and Aspen; and a sister, Susan Glaser.
Condolences can be sent to:
220-31 Kingsbury Ave.
Oakland Gardens, NY 11364