Moeykens moves on from Cornwall school

CORNWALL — Jennifer Moeykens has seen two generations of several families pass through Cornwall’s elementary school during her 34 years there as a teacher.
She jokes that the reason she’s retiring this month is because she doesn’t want to score enough longevity points to see the third generation roll in. Joking aside, she’ll be leaving the school with fond memories and vows to remain active during the next phase of her life outside the classroom.
“This is an extraordinary community that has great support for the school,” Moeykens said last Monday in between accolades from her many past and present students, colleagues and fellow Cornwall residents.
It was in 1976 that Moeykens resigned as a teacher at the Bridgewater (Vermont) Elementary School to join the faculty at the Bingham Memorial School in Cornwall.
“I had heard this district was a great place to work and figured, ‘why not?’” she recalled. Moeykens had applied for teaching posts at the Weybridge and  Cornwall schools, and received offers from both. She picked Cornwall, and the rest is history.
Fred Peet, 42, was in Moeykens’ first class at Bingham Memorial back in the fall of ’76.
“We were a challenging class and she did well to control us,” Peet recalled during a recent celebration in Moeykens’ honor held at the school. He explained that the 13 boys in the class put out a lot of energy that even an experienced teacher would have found it difficult to tame.
“She definitely showed us some tough love,” Peet said with a smile.
Cindy Peet, who was on the Cornwall school board that hired Moeykens, said that ability to instill discipline in the classroom — which at that time had 25-27 students — and in the individual students was one of the things the hiring committee liked about the young teacher who at that time the students called “Miss Lennox.”
“She was firm but friendly,” recalled Cindy Peet, who is also Fred Peet’s mother. “Kids are here to learn, not to be entertained.”
Another former student, January Stearns, 41, recalled how in Miss Lennox’s class she got her first real homework assignments.
“It was the first time you were held accountable for your work,” she said.
“She teaches ‘old school,’ I don’t know any other way to describe it,” Stearns said. “You were expected to do things neatly, do things right. She’ll give you help if you need it, and when you learn something it stays with you.
“Kids don’t realize how much they learned until they get out of her classroom.”
Grace, Nate and Jennifer Pyne have all passed through Moeykens’ class in the last few years.
“They all loved her,” said their father, Lawrence Pyne.
She has a reputation among the students as a tough teacher, Pyne said, “so the kids all have a little apprehension going in, but they all find she is fair and consistent and that wins them over.”
Moeykens said she has been a good fit at Cornwall Elementary.
“There is a reason teachers at this school have been here so long,” she said.
That reason, she said, is that the school offers a nurturing learning and teaching environment. Moeykens said she has been able to change her teaching techniques over the years to incorporate new ideas and techniques.
“I like new ideas,” she said. “I’ve never done the same thing the same way twice. I’m always looking for a new way to tweak (a lesson).”
That’s what she did over the course of a career teaching third, fourth and fifth grades. Her daughter, Elizabeth Moeykens, was one of her students. Elizabeth has followed in her mom’s footsteps and is currently a second-grade teacher at Mary Hogan Elementary School in Middlebury.
While the second generation of the Moeykens family will continue to teach, the first generation has decided to move on.
“I really wanted to do something else before I got too old to enjoy it,” Jennifer Moeykens said.
That “something else” will include some personal projects and copious amounts of volunteering. Moeykens has a lot of gardening to do at her Shoreham home. She and her husband, Bernard, have a new horse to take care of. Jennifer would also like to team up with her 7-year-old black Labrador retriever to provide therapy outreach to people in need. And then there’s a lot of charitable work she’d like to do through St. Stephens Church in Middlebury.
Asked what she’ll miss most about teaching, Moeykens doesn’t hesitate.
“The kids,” she said. “It’s all about the kids.”
Other veteran teachers retiring from Addison Central Supervisory Union schools this year include Alison Dayton, Middlebury Union High School (32 years); Margaret Coulman, Middlebury Union Middle School (26 years); Gene Childers, MUMS (22 years); Susan Miner, MUMS (13 years); Barry DeCarli, ACSU Diversified Occupations Program (22 years); and Linda Francis, Shoreham School (19 years).
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected]

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