Bertrando accepts new teaching position

OBSERVER Photo by Ashleigh Brown Fredonia boys basketball coach Nick Bertrando celebrates after the final buzzer as the Hillbillies defeated Salamanca in the Section VI, Class B2 championship game at the Buffalo State Sports Arena in March of 2023.

One of the region’s elite coaches will be taking on the role even more throughout his everyday life.

Respected Fredonia teacher and coach Nick Bertrando will be moving from the classroom to the gym, as he recently accepted a position within the District as a Physical Education Teacher. Bertrando will make the transition starting after the current school year concludes.

“The last 17 years in social studies have been absolutely amazing. At this point in my career, I think there is an opportunity for me to impact more lives, even more than I have now,” Bertrando said.

Bertrando will be filling the shoes of Alex Conti, who has held the position Bertrando was appointed to for the past 29 years.

“I will be honored and humbled to carry on the strong P.E. tradition here that Fredonia has, while also bringing in the 21st century type of skills that the students will need,” Bertrando said. “… It’s a dream come true and it’s an opportunity to have more impact on the student body of Fredonia.”

Fredonia teachers Joanne Lotter, left, and Nick Bertrando, right, were honored by the New York State School Boards Association as Champions of Change for their new course at Fredonia, titled Personal Fitness and Nutrition. OBSERVER Photo by Braden Carmen.

Speaking to the impact Bertrando has already had, Board of Education member Sheila Hahn said, “Coach Bertrando has changed the life of my son.”

Hahn’s son, Mike, is a senior who played a major role on the varsity basketball team the past two years. “Mr. Bertrando has taught him character, discipline, giving all of your effort – more than 100% – respect for other people, if you’re on time, you’re late,” Hahn said. “… As my son graduates, it’s my one opportunity to say we love Coach Bertrando.”

Bertrando has been the varsity boys basketball coach since taking over for current Athletic Director Greg Lauer in the fall of 2018. Prior to that, he was the junior varsity boys basketball coach for the entirety of Lauer’s time as the varsity coach. Bertrando is also the co-head coach of the girls flag football team since its inception just over a year ago.

In his time as varsity boys basketball coach, Bertrando has won two Section VI titles, as well as the Coaches Sportsmanship Award for the Chautauqua-Cattaraugus Athletic Association in 2021-2022. In his time as head coach, Bertrando has mentored three 1,000-point scorers — Nick Whitfield, Tyler Putney, and Ethan Fry — while Whitfield earned 2020 OBSERVER Player of the Year recognition and Putney received the same honor the following year in 2021.

In the classroom, Bertrando is also among the best of the best. Bertrando and fellow Fredonia teacher and coach Joanne Lotter created a new course, titled Personal Fitness and Nutrition, to launch in the 2021-2022 school year. The course is a co-ed, one semester elective class for high school students. Its purpose is defined as, “creating lifelong healthy habits improving physical fitness, nutrition, and overall well-being.”

The course was an immediate success, which caught the attention of the New York State School Boards Association. Bertrando and Lotter were honored with the State’s Champions of Change Award. The banner hangs in the High School Library, directly behind the regular seat of Superintendent Dr. Brad Zilliox at regular Board of Education meetings.

Despite creating a hole to fill in the Social Studies Department in accepting the new role, Bertrando’s new appointment is viewed as a positive for the District.

“Either way, we still have Nick in the District, which was important to us. He is definitely a valued member of the Fredonia School community. He does a lot above in beyond in a lot of different ways for the District,” Zilliox said.

High School Principal Darrin Paschke added, “He’s certainly going to be missed in the Social Studies Department, but extremely welcomed in the P.E. Department.”

Paschke highlighted that Bertrando, along with Julie (Arnold) Sanders, who was hired last year, will bring “many new things” to the Physical Education Department.

“What a pleasure to have Mr. Bertrando as a P.E. Teacher. I think he’s going to be perfect for the role,” Paschke said.


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