Zoo Honors Penguin Loving Teacher

Syracuse, NY – Corcoran High School’s History Of The Americas class wanted to honor their penguin-loving teacher, Noelle Files. She, in turn wanted to pay tribute to her hard-working students. So the class was hopeful when they nominated Hota, the acronym of the course name, during the Rosamond Gifford Zoo’s contest to name one of this year’s crop of Humboldt hatchlings. The name made it to the voting round, but lost to “Alberto.” That name was given to one of the male chicks on Feb. 17. But zoo officials were so touched by the sentiments of the Corcoran class and its teacher that they made a surprise announcement this morning to Files’ senior-level class. One of the female chicks would be named Hota.  Applause followed laughter as part-time keeper Hannah Walsh, dressed in the zoo’s Humphrey the Humboldt Penguin costume, waddled into the classroom.  Then it dawned on someone: “Oh! It’s Hota!” No, it’s Humphrey, said Zoo Director Ted Fox. Then he told the students what made their name stand out among the 1,100-plus entries submitted from around the world. “You guys hit the mark, the respect and the care that you obviously have for Ms. Files,” Fox said. The class received an adoption package including a stuffed toy penguin, a framed portrait of Hota and snapshots of the bird for each student. They also were invited to visit her, she will be going on exhibit soon, Fox said. Hota was the top vote-getter among the feminine names submitted, zoo spokeswoman Lorrell Walter said. “We tried mad hard to get everybody in the school to vote for it because we wanted to win,” said Hailey Boronczyk. “It’s cool because, well, I love the class,” Files said. “I love History of the Americas. It means a lot that the kids all got on board and that they wanted to participate in this to name something after the whole class. It’s a way for us to remember it and celebrate the class.” It also gives the community something good to see about the city schools, she said. “And it’s good for the kids. You can see how happy they are,” Files said.

Corcoran High School teacher Noelle Files reacts after being presented a photo of Hota, a Rosamond Gifford Zoo penguin named for her class. Hannah Walsh, dressed as a penguin, makes the presentation.

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