The Work We Do: Lawrence Mandresh, Riverhead High School

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I’m Dr. Lawrence Mandresh. I’ve been teaching here at Riverhead High School since 1999.

I wear a lot of hats. I’m actually the chemical hygiene officer at the school, which has to do with making sure [of] certain things with safety and chemicals. I’ve been doing that for about six years.

The Key Club — which is a civic organization here at the high school — it’s the high school level of what they call the Kiwanis Club … I took it over a few years ago, and the club is phenomenal. We’re upwards of about 90 members … People think that students just want to sit on their phones and do nothing and they’re totally wrong … It’s amazing what the students have done.

I coach a few sports here. I love middle school sports. I coach soccer and middle school basketball. Those are fun.

I teach AP Chemistry — Regents and Honors Chemistry when there’s not enough students for AP, but we seem to have a real fantastic amount of students that take the higher level courses here. Juniors and seniors, which is the level I deal with, they have lots of questions and they — you don’t want them to go out to college and be in that bubble. Our AP program is pretty full. I don’t know if people understand that. 

This is not a first career for me. I come from outside education. 1999, I think, is when I started, about twenty years ago. And I knew it would be science, especially chemistry, because I also have — besides a medical degree, I have a pharmacy degree.

We have a lot of students and a lot of exams. I work them really, really hard. But I respect them, I have a lot of fun with them, I teach from a real world perspective. I tell them about how I did in high school versus college. I didn’t learn to study until I got into college.

I write a lot of recommendations. I write between 20-40 college recommendations a year. They know they can come to me. I’ll talk to them after school or during class if we have free time about what to expect [when] not here. Again, you don’t want it to hit them in the face when they leave.

Every day is different. Every day you have a different student with different problems. And you have to work with them and help them through it.

This school district gave me my opportunity. And because of that and because of everything I’ve learned about this district, I would never [leave] it.

I’m lucky, I’ve been happy with everything I’ve done. Throughout life, I’ve just been fortunate, you know? But you have to make the best of what you do.

“The Work We Do” is a Riverhead News Review multimedia project profiling workers on the North Fork made possible by Peconic Landing.