Manchester Students-Turned-Educators Express Gratitude
Still in the System -- and Proud Of It
More than five dozen certified staff members (the vast majority of them teachers) from throughout the district have a special bond: they were students in Manchester as well, and with just a couple of exceptions all graduated from Manchester High School.
The text that follows grew out of a call for information and anecdotes, and it has been trimmed quite a bit. That’s because many respondents wrote a lot, and had a similar message. Many said they feel very fortunate to be “giving back” to a community that they say meant so much to them when they were younger.
The pictures that are displayed were chosen at random and were included mostly to evoke the passage of time.
There's more at the end of the story explaining how this project evolved.
Here, then, are those "still in the system," in (roughly) the order they responded:
Chanel Curtin -- Washington, llling, MHS in ‘00
She works at Buckley as their 3-5 STEM Specialist. “It's been a blast from the past being back in Manchester. While I'm not at a school I previously attended as a student, it was fun being back at MHS during PD and Convocation.”
Teri (Burnett) Norman -- Nathan Hale, Bennet, MHS ‘86
Teri is a special education teacher at MHS. “It's very strange to be teaching in the same high school that I attended.”
Kate Dias -- Verplanck, Illing, MHS ‘90
A math teacher at MHS, she teaches in a room where she once took English with Dr. Kirsti Linask. “The class was theatre arts and I loved it (big surprise there),” she writes, adding that is “probably why I feel so fondly and protective of my classroom. Dr. Linask treated me with tremendous respect and I remember her with great fondness.”
Sarah Edwards -- Highland Park, Washington, Illing, MHS ‘86
She now teaches grade 3 at Buckley but notes that “Going into the Illing teacher's lounge and sitting down and shooting the breeze with teachers who had taught me was very cool.”
Kassandra Holder -- Verplank, Bennet, MHS ‘10
Kassandra is in her first year (back) at MHS, teaching PE and health. “It's great to be back at the school I went to and have my teachers now be my peers.”
Kevin Brophy -- Iling, MHS ‘83
Kevin teaches math and social studies at MRA. “I feel I am lucky to have become not just colleagues but ‘friends’ with my former teachers. I always thought they were good people when I was a teenager, but I soon realized they are better than that.”
Courtney (DiTarando) Bonneau -- Buckley, Illing, MHS ‘04.
Courtney teaches PE at Martin but says that “Walking into Buckley always feels a little strange...I feel very tall!!! Can't say I remember getting a detention; my former teachers usually give hugs.”
Beth Milton -- Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘93
Beth teaches fifth grade at Verplanck and notes that Mike Saimond was her administrator during her first year there. “He was my ninth grade science teacher at Illing. It was a pleasure roasting one of my former teachers at his retirement dinner in 2013. I am quite certain he will never forget it.”
Cara Christensen -- Keeney, Bennet, MHS ‘84
Cara, who teaches at Keeney, has been in the district more than 25 years. “A very strange thing is that Mr. Dick Williams used to be my sixth grade math teacher and when I was hired at Washington, I worked in his former classroom. When I moved to Bennet, he was teaching there, and when I came to Keeney, I ended up teaching in Mr. Williams’ old classroom again.”
Kimberly Gohla -- Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘98
Kim teaches grade 7 enhancement at Illing. “The classroom I teach in was the old sewing room when I was at Illing. It looks very different now that it's been renovated, but just two years ago, it still had the sewing machines in it! There is a lot about the building that has changed since I was here, but it still feels like a second home to me.”
Jane (Mather) Bourque - Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘71
Jane has been working in the district since 1989 and now teaches at Keeney. She writes, “At an inservice day several years ago at Bowers, it was the first time being back there since I got out of grade 6. At break time I strolled through the halls to the library. I snuck in there and looked for a specific book that I loved, ‘Thee Hannah’ by Margarite DeAngeli. Amazingly, I found it and checked the ‘card’ in the back and I was the last student to take it out!!!”
Lynn Rhodes -- Verplanck, Bennet, MHS ‘70
Lynn retired in 2013 after 37 years at Verplanck and is now a preschool tutor. She taught first grade in her old first grade classroom and had chicken pox both times in room 1 -- as a student and teacher!
Kelly Wynn Burns -- Buckley, Illing, MHS ‘82
An art teacher at the high school. “It is awesome teaching in the same room where I created my artwork as a high school student.”
Kelly Cecchini -- Illing, MHS ‘78
Kelly is the head of the English Department (and a teacher) at MHS. “Many of my former classmates work here, including Leah Lourie, Dave Maloney, Bob Healy, Matt Schardt (just retired from Illing), Matt Walsh (now at Illing)....I'm sure I am forgetting several,” says Kelly, who has two kids who graduated from MHS and six nephews now at the school.
Tanya (Nixon) Perkins -- Verplanck, Bennet, MHS ‘04
Tanya is a district Behavior Analyst (BCBA). “It's so much fun being in the places that I called home for so many years!”
Susan Redman -- South School (now the Lutz), Martin, Bennet, MHS ‘86
In her 24th year, she’s taught at Nathan Hale Elementary, Head Start, and Verplanck.
Greg DeNies – Waddell, Bennet, MHS ‘73
Greg teaches PE at Keeney. “I am teaching students whose parents I had in my classes from 20 years ago.”
Katelyn Miner -- Buckley, Illing, MHS ‘91
She is an AP at MHS, a place where she has had numerous roles. “It's been really interesting to experience MPS as a student, employee, teacher, parent and administrator,” she writes, adding: “The part of the building that brings back a lot of memories is the athletic wing. Anytime I am near the pool and smell the chlorine it brings me back to many hours spent with teammates. The athletic wing feels similar to me but in many ways the rest of the building feels transformed since my days as a student.”
Jason Daniels -- Washington, Bennet, MHS ‘98
Jason teaches at MRA and writes: “This, honestly, is a dream job for me and kind of surreal in a sense. I grew up in this town, biked every inch of this town, played football and ran track for this town. I grew up on Pine Street. I meet friends here that I still keep in contact with all these years later. It's been quite the experience.”
Kellie (Grady) Beauregard -- Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘95
She teaches first grade at Robertson and is attuned to Manchester’s growing diversity. “There was one student of color in my class through Bowers; at Robertson I have a good mix of many cultures. I love teaching in Manchester and I'm proud to live in the community where I teach.”
Mindy (Forde) Burke -- Martin, Bennet, MHS ‘88
Mindy teaches at the Preschool Center. “My grandfather was a student at the Barnard School (currently Bennet Academy) when it burned down. He told me he ran back to grab his sweater before evacuating! I taught kindergarten in the very same classroom that my father was a student in at Nathan Hale. He helped me move into my classroom and for him it was like a trip down memory lane!”
Wesley Schofield -- Verplanck, Bennet, MHS ‘97
Wesley is a PE teacher at his old elementary school. “It’s definitely a blast from the past while teaching in the same gym I used to run wild in.”
Susan Stepanski -- Washington, Bennet, MHS ‘75
Sue teaches FSC at IMS. “The reason I became a teacher was because of Linda Rohlfs. She was my 6th grade teacher at Washington school and we did amazing things.” Sue adds: “My memories of Manchester schools and the teachers are warm and happy.”
Justis Lopez -- Washington, Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘10
Justis teaches Social Studies at MHS and say he is “humbled to give back to the community that raised me.”
Katey Reynolds - Martin, Bennet, MHS ‘80
She teaches grade 1 at Washington. “I had the opportunity to thank my first grade teacher from Martin School, Mrs. Letendre, at a PD we both attended for being my inspiration to teach. It was like meeting a celebrity after years of not seeing her!”
David Moyer -- Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘68
David is a school psychologist at MHS. “I was a student at MHS 50 years ago... the school building and student body have changed dramatically (and positively) over that time. When I graduated from MHS in 1968 there was only one student of color out of our class of 642 people. (The student, Dick Cobb, was senior class president, quarterback of the football team and a star basketball player.) The diversity of the school system and the town help make Manchester the "city of village charm".
Michelle (Cote) Sampiere -- MHS ‘07
Michelle is a business teacher at MHS. “Beth Hayes, now principal at Illing, was my teacher at Saint Bernard's for computers in 5th or 6th grade and then she was my teacher when she started at Manchester during my junior year of high school. She was the department head when I student taught at MHS. And she was on the interviewing panel when I interviewed. She was an assistant principal when I was hired. She has always been a great mentor to me throughout my time knowing her.”
Elisa Haveles --Bowers, Illing MHS ‘01
Elisa teaches general music at Keeney. “I've worked with many of the music teachers I once had as a student and I occasionally see other teachers I once had as a student too. I've only taught in schools that I did not attend, but it is fun to go to events at other schools I did attend and see the places and some familiar faces from a while ago.”
Jamie Kolek -- Martin, Bennet, MHS ‘00
Jamie is teaching first grade at Washington. “I think it's great to teach in the district that you attended. It's nice to see all of the exciting changes that have taken place.”
Ashley Okwuazi -- Robertson, Bennet, MHS ‘09
Ashley teaches seventh grade English at Illing. “My 8th grade teacher, Ryan Parker was sitting next to me in a meeting with our principal and randomly exclaimed, ‘Is this real? I can't believe I'm sitting here with Ashley Okwuazi! My former student now here with me talking to our boss and handling business -- that's dope!’ I couldn't help but smile from ear to ear.”
Amy Barrera Angelo -- Bentley Elementary, lling, MHS ‘88
Amy teaches grade 3 at Keeney. “I felt It was important that I was able to work in the town that I grew up in. I wanted to give back, as I had a great experience during my school days.”
Steve Hadge -- Buckley, Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘73
Robertson’s library media specialist, Steve earlier taught at Nathan Hale where his students included Ryan Jones and Heather Banas, both now teachers at MHS. He says his first teaching assignment was at Buckley, “down the hall from where I had attended first grade.”
Rachel (Cion) DeLany -- Buckley, MHS ‘95
Rachel has been at Highland Park for 15 years, teaching both first and third grade. Her confession: “My kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Youngs is a substitute teacher and has often been in for me. She always tells my class how I cried every single morning before kindergarten.”
Christina Magnotta -- Waddell, Illing, MHS ‘04
Christina teaches first grade at Bowers. “It is interesting to become colleagues with the teachers who taught me! I have also had a lot of interactions with teachers who remember me from when I was in elementary school.”
Sue (Webb) Larson -- Bowers, lling, MHS ‘88
A long time PE teacher in the district, she’s now at Highland Park. “While I was a student at MHS, I failed Kathy Mayshar's PE class because I never made up the classes missed due to state tournament soccer games. We had a good laugh about that when I was teaching at MHS.”
James Coughlin -- Verplanck, Martin, Bennet, MHS ‘94
In his second year teaching PE at Illing PE after 16 years at Robertson. “It's cool to teach with many who were once my teacher or a teacher in the building,” he writes. “The changing from 'Mr.' or 'Mrs.' to their first name was interesting and took a while to feel comfortable saying.”
Hillary White -- Bowers, lling, MHS ‘08
Hillary teaches PE at Robertson -- having been a “traveling” PE teacher before that. “Teaching at five of the schools in Manchester has allowed me to reconnect with a lot of my old teachers.”
Jessica (Skoog) Matlock -- Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘95
Jessica teaches science at Bennet. She writes: “Early on at Bennet I taught with my 5th grade teacher (Mrs. Borello), who actually was married to my 6th grade teacher (Mr. Borello). She has since retired and so has he. She used to razz me with ‘when you were in 5th grade....’ and at one point brought in a batch of old pictures from my 6th grade year that her husband had passed onto her. There I was proudly posing with my life-sized ‘Alien’ I had constructed for a project!”
Angelina Dale -- Illing, MHS ‘03
An English teacher at MHS, she writes: “My husband (Steve Rascher) taught here (until 2006), and my current classroom was his room. My desk still has a piece of masking tape with his last name on it!”
Georgeanne DiCenso -- Verplanck, Bennet, MHS ‘81
Georgeanne teaches math in a room at Bennet where she once had class. Back then, “the Cone Gym was brand new.”
Laurie Ochnio -- Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘73
Laurie is a special education teacher at Highland Park.
Trisha Bourcier -- Keeney, Bennet, MHS ‘93
Trisha has been teaching at Buckley Elementary School for 11 years -- where she is currently (and, she hopes, permanently) assigned to grade 1. Trisha says that her mom -- a teacher in Manchester for 34 years -- still comes in and volunteers in my classroom from time to time. She has 5 boys -- three currently in Manchester public schools and two more to join them in the next few years.
Karen Saunders -- Keeney, Bennet, MHS ‘70
Karen has taught French and Spanish at MHS for 17 years. “It is great to work here,” she writes. “I remember some of the classrooms and events from MHS. I was a cheerleader and was part of the Aridian and the Latin Saturnalia Club.”
Deanna Frankovitch -- Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘88
A grade 2 teacher at Verplanck, Deanna notes that her father (MHS ‘61) and two sons (MHS ‘13 and ‘16) also made the Bowers-Illing-MHS journey. She adds: “Mr. Maloney (one of my favorite MHS teachers) still teases me about being a ‘little’ social in my high school years!”
Bob Healy -- Highland Park, Bennet, MHS ‘75
Bob’s a PE teacher at MHS. He notes, “I walked the halls with Dave Maloney (MHS social studies teacher) 40 years ago and we are still here today!”
Judy Sawtelle -- Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘90
Judy oversees the testing department for our Adult Ed program, where she works with former teachers of hers including Diane Kearney (Judy’s 10th grade English teacher).
Catherine Kapa -- Lincoln School (now town offices), Waddell, Green (now senior center), Illing (for one week before moving), MHS ‘74 (after moving back to Manchester)
Cathy is in her ninth year teaching science at Illing; before that she taught at Saint James School for 24 years and at Odyssey School for two years. She left the longest remarks of anyone and they are printed here in their unedited entirety.
I have many wonderful memories of my school days in the Manchester School System. Kindergarten- I lived in the house on Center Street with the "tower' ( the house is now a business) The boys and girls were separated on the playground..... in the AM and for recess. Grades 1-5 - I remember Mrs. Getchell (Grade 2 ) taking us outside to read us Charlotte's Web.....Ms. C for Grade 3 - I wrote a story about How a Newspaper has feelings and was chosen to read it over the intercom to the whole school ( I was so shy...but so proud).. Mr. Clifford was my 4th and 5th grade teacher - he's the reason I'm a teacher ..he had so much patience teaching me Math / he was very motivating / and also ran our after school sports program( where my love of running started) Ms. Robb was a very kind but stern principal at Waddell....my 6th grade teacher Mrs. Stoffalano taught me how to be a young women / she played guitar and taught us a lot about music appreciation/ taught us about herbs and gardening and took us to New York to the United Nations ,Chinatown and the Bronx Zoo all in one day !! I had many awesome teachers at MHS ...Mrs. Wiggins , Mr. Marquis and Mr. Hayes for LA ,Mr. Troy and Mr. Race for Social Studies ,Mrs. Kitcher, Mr. Alibrio and Mr. Miglore for Science. I played field hockey for one season...Ms. Mally ( gym teacher/coach) and I was a member of the marching band ..played clarinet which I started at Waddell School with Mr. Shreeves.
Matt Montgomery -- Keeney, Bennet, MHS ‘03
Matt works in the district learning center at lling. He says it is “a little strange being colleagues with some past teachers, neighbors and/or parents of friends” and adds “I still cannot bring myself to call them by first name. They will always be Mrs. Dudzik, Mrs. Francoeur, Mrs. Schneider, and Mr. Watson.”
Dave Mazzotta --Keeney, Bennet, MHS ‘85
Dave is in his 23rd year teaching English at the Bentley Alternative Ed. Program and recognized as one of the program’s “founding fathers.” He notes that his second grade teacher at Keeney (Mrs. Bennett) also taught both of his sons when they were in second grade.
Diane Hellstrom Gawlinski -- Washington, Nathan Hale, Verplanck, Bennet, MHS ‘75
Diane is an instructional tutor at Highland Park. Her reflection: “It is fulfilling to experience the full circle of teaching in the system where I was a student. I feel fortunate to be able to compare what used to be with the reality of now and to see the strengths and weaknesses as we have moved through time.”
Stefanie Grande -- Buckley, lling, MHS '09
An MHS physical education and health teacher, she writes: “There are just over 20 of my past teachers or coaches who are now my colleagues at MHS. I feel that there is a unique relation between alumni and current students because we have experienced many things they are currently going through. I value most the life lessons I learned from teachers in this very building and hope to pass those similar life lessons on to future graduating classes.”
Lindsey Boutilier -- Martin, Bennet, MHS ‘90
The MHS athletic director, Lindsey spent 16 year working for Hartford Public Schools before returning to Manchester.
Fellicia Ayers- Bennet, MHS ‘94
A Bennet teacher, she admits getting lost during convocation trying to find the MHS auditorium, “so I guess I'm too old to remember much about that building!”
Kim Cleary - Bowers, Bennett, MHS ‘78
Kim teaches kindergarten at her old elementary school.
Siobhan (Clancy) Leonard - Buckley, Bowers, Illing, MHS ‘96
Siobhan teaches general music at Buckley.
David Maloney -- Nathan Hale, Bennet, MHS ‘76
An MHS social studies teacher (and department head), this is the only district he’s worked in.
Sharon Frye -- Verplanck, Bennet
A fifth-grade teacher at Robertson Elementary School, she didn’t go to MHS (her family moved to Bolton) but says “I recently moved back to Manchester and I love living and working in this town!”
Ann Rivosa Johnston -- Nathan Hale, Bennet, MHS ‘72
An AP at Verplanck, she taught grade 4 there 20 years ago. “It is really rewarding to see former students succeed as adults. Three of my former students are now colleagues, and one was a former mayor of Manchester (Louis Spadaccini).”
Jennifer Breault -- Waddell, Illing, MHS ‘05
She’s a district wide enrichment specialist for Robertson, Verplanck, Washington, and Buckley Elementary Schools. “It is an exciting transition to work with the teachers who taught me and impacted my life in a positive way. Even as colleagues, they continue to teach me more about how to be a better educator. Not to mention, it is a perk to always know your way around the buildings.”
Sara Suitor -- Washington, Bennet, MHS ‘94
A PE teacher at Bowers, she writes: “It's strange in the beginning to teach alongside colleagues who were once my teachers. It's also pretty cool to now consider a lot of these colleagues/former teachers my friends.”
Caitlin Gallagher -- Bowers, Bennet, MHS ‘10
She’s a first-year teacher at Bowers (grade 5). “I attended Bowers as a student, as well as my dad, and my grandmother also taught here. On the first day of school, I showed my fifth grade students my Bowers yearbook picture from fifth grade!”
Diane Maloney -- Washington, Bennet, MHS ‘84
An art teacher at Buckley, she writes: Being a Manchester resident and a teacher in Manchester, I feel I have a lot of connections with students. I love being a part of the town I've grown up in and I am really vested in making sure that my students are challenged to do their best.”
Emily Nason -- Buckley, Illing, MHS ‘02
A pre-school social worker for the past five years. Emily didn’t include her maiden name but hints, “my family was well known throughout the district!”
Michelle (Diehl) Balthazrr- Keeney, Bennet, MHS ‘96
An LA consultant at Verplanck, she earlier taught at Keeney -- her ‘old school.’
Jill Ackerman Inkel -- Keeney, Bennet, MHS ‘73
A grade 5 teacher at Martin, Jill writes: “When I attended Keeney Street School, Ed Timbrell was just hired to be principal. Twenty-five years later I went to Buckley School to register my son for kindergarten and guess who was principal? Yes, Ed Timbrell. I asked if he was principal of all elementary schools and that he did not look a day older. He was a great administrator and is an amazing man.”
A few final words: This story began with a suggestion from MHS Principal Jill Krieger, who has a few new teachers at the high school who had graduated from there. Jill thought it would be nice to spotlight them. I agreed, but as we talked I realized I didn’t want to leave out MHS grads who were in their first year teaching at other schools in town. And what about those MHS grads who had been teaching in town for more than just one year? At that point, I decided to just put out an invitation seeking input from anyone “currently teaching in Manchester who also graduated from MHS.” The responses above include a few staff members who are not teachers per se, but are considered “certified staff.’ I also included a few who had been Manchester students but, say, moved out of town before attending MHS. A few non-certified staff members also responded but I did not include their names or stories -- a painful decision but one that I felt had to be made. Maybe a non-cert version of this project another time? Amy Spellman, Pat Obue and Loretta Sullivan -- who work in the media center at MHS -- scanned pictures from old MHS yearbooks so we would have some visuals to accompany the story. District webmaster Ryan Gohla took things from there, but I made the final decisions about which pictures were used so if you are a tad embarrassed, well, sorry about that. That wasn’t our intention. You can blame me. Finally, if I messed up anything while collating all this information, please let me know asap and i will make corrections asap. -- Jim Farrell