A retired teacher who taught in Orchard Park hailed as a role model
By Daniel Meyer
As an active and dynamic senior citizen, Anthony “Tony” Agnello credits his ability to keep up with his incredibly busy schedule to his ongoing maintenance of his physical and mental health.
Whether he is mentoring high school football players, leading a senior fitness class or volunteering as a refugee services consultant, Agnello is always on the move — and he wouldn’t have it any other way.
“I keep moving and stay busy and that’s the way I like it,” says Agnello. “If you can identify interests that allow you to give back to your community, that’s even better.”
Agnello made such an impression that last year he received the prestigious honor of being named “Erie County’s Senior of the Month” in July 2016, a monthly recognition program overseen by the Erie County Department of Senior Services. Agnello was lauded at a ceremony held at the Orchard Park Senior Center that included testimonials from fellow senior citizens who view him as a role model. He also received an official proclamation from Erie County Executive Poloncarz that listed his many accomplishments as one of Western New York’s most active and engaged senior citizens.
A retired teacher who taught more than 7,000 students in the Orchard Park Central School District during a nearly four-decade career as an educator, Agnello fondly recalls his days in the classroom as well as his stint as a member of the Orchard Park School Board. In both capacities, he was presented opportunities to directly influence the lives of children.
“Helping a young mind grow is an incredible responsibility and something I took very seriously,” says Agnello. “I enjoyed my work because I truly cared about the kids.”
A graduate of Buffalo State College, Agnello first taught in Lackawanna through the Teacher Corps program. He went on to teach students in Afghanistan through the Peace Corps before eventually returning to teach biology in Orchard Park. The time he spent overseas motivated him and his wife, Niki Gernold-Agnello, to establish what is known as Orchard Park Educational Outreach. The organization focuses on helping students expand their horizons and learn about other parts of the world, with Agnello serving in the capacity of refugee services consultant, where he coordinates their robust local outreach activities.
An original member of the Teacher Corps/Peace Corps program, Agnello helps oversee the training of young educators from Western New York to later work as mentors in Afghanistan. He also served in the past as a coach for Orchard Park’s football program, a volunteer youth sports coach and serves as a senior citizen group fitness coach at the Orchard Park Senior Center.
“Tony is very well-known in the community for his educational endeavors as well as for his commitment to his peers at the Senior Center,” said former Erie County Senior Services Commissioner Randy Hoak, who now serves as associate state director for AARP NY. “He is a dedicated volunteer who is always willing to help others.”
A man who impresses most anyone he interacts with, Agnello is greatly admired by administrators and fellow residents at the Orchard Park Senior Center.
“Tony is always willing to help others and loves to give back to his community,” says Anna Willems, who retired last year after 20 years as director of the Orchard Park Senior Center. “He is a role model for so many people in Orchard Park.”
Agnello is also an adviser emeritus for the WNY Champion Model UN Group, an entity he formed in the late 1990s to encourage local high school students to enlighten themselves with views of the world from different cultural and national perspectives.
Agnello also co-founded the Orchard Park Veterans Memorial Committee and is president of The Friends of Afghanistan, a national organization of Peace Corps volunteers who worked in that country during the 1960s and 1970s.
His volunteer endeavors coupled with his previous accomplishments as an educator are regularly admired by people throughout Western New York.
“Tony is a sensible guy who always speaks from a position of honesty, honor and integrity,” says Joe Wales, a trustee on the Orchard Park Village Board and a former student of Agnello’s. “He is incredible and was a positive influence on my life.”
Agnello encourages other senior citizens to remain active and become involved with charitable causes that interest them.
“Find something you care about, learn everything you can about it and then get involved,” says Agnello. “Life is too short to sit on the sidelines.”