Rensselaer County Sheriff Office New D.A.R.E. Officer
Rensselaer County Sheriff Jack Mahar is proud to announce the new D.A.R.E. Officer for the county.
Rensselaer County Deputy Jeffrey Russo spent two weeks in an intensive D.A.R.E. officers instructors training class in Montour Falls, N.Y.-The NYS Academy of Fire Science.
“Deputy Russo’s hard work paid off- he was honored with the John Jantzen Award for Excellence for being the best student overall,” said Mahar, “Russo was surprised with the honor at the conclusion of the training”.
Deputy Russo is the new school resource officer, working in seven schools here in Rensselaer County. He will be teaching 5th graders at Berlin, Hoosick Falls, Hoosick Valley, Rensselaer City, Rensselaer Park, Tamarac, and St. Mary’s Academy elementary schools throughout the school year.
D.A.R.E. classes taught by Deputy Russo have just started with the beginning of the new school year. The program, which began as an anti-drug program, now focuses more on safe choices and good decision making skills. The new research based curriculum is designed to help children lead safe and healthy lives. The D.A.R.E. instructor also teaches students to be aware of their contribution to school, neighborhood and community safety.
“The new curriculum has created a really strong program. D.A.R.E. has been being taught in the county for over twenty years,” Russo said.
But before he could start instructing the D.A.R.E. program, he had to learn how to teach it.
“D.A.R.E. school was a lot of work, but it was fun and interesting. The instructors were fabulous.
We would begin classroom lessons at 8 a.m., and work on our presentation skills late into the evening. Each week started with Sunday night preparations and studying,” said Deputy Russo.
The 22 officers who attended the training were either from New York or Pennsylvania. While the trainees learned the curriculum and did mock presentations, the instructors constantly evaluated them.
“There was instant feedback. We were videotaped daily for self-critique and evaluation,” Russo said.
“The final exam was teaching in a sixth-grade classroom,” he said. “The kids were wonderful. Our daily presentations were delivered in front of other police officers, this was entirely different. None of us finished our entire lesson when presenting to the kids,” said Russo “they sent us into a school so we would better appreciate how crucial time management is and what teachers deal with on a daily basis. It was an eye-opener.”
Deputy Russo was surprised at the culmination ceremony when presented with the Jantzen Award, and unknown to him, his wife Dana was invited to the graduation ceremony and award presentation. Russo started with the Rensselaer County Sheriff’s Office in July 2004 as a patrol officer and applied for the D.A.R.E. instructor position when it became available. The current D.A.R.E. officer for the department is Deputy Jim Phelps, who is stepping down at the end of the current school year after 16 years in the position.
“John Jantzen was an off-duty police officer in Suffolk County, N.Y., when he went into a restaurant unarmed to intervene in a dispute between a woman and her estranged husband. The husband, armed with a shotgun, took the life of Jantzen, the woman and a third person.”
According to the award information, “In both his professional life and his personal life, John Jantzen demonstrated that he cared about people, especially children. John was enthusiastic about D.A.R.E. and guided children through his classroom lessons, and just as importantly, by serving them as a positive role model.”
“It is in recognition of John Jantzen's life, qualities and accomplishments that the top overall student award, which is presented at the culmination ceremonies of each D.A.R.E. Instructor Seminar conducted in New York State, has been named to honor him.”