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Longtime educators retire from ANeSU

ADDISON COUNTY — Springtime in teacher Jan Davis’ classroom comes with a bang. Her third-grade students at the Monkton Central School year after year count down the days to “Hatch Day,” when their incubated chicken eggs will crack open to reveal tiny chicks.
Hatch Day is the culmination of an embryology unit meant to teach students about the development of cells and eggs.
“It really is a favorite unit of both the kids as well as the other students in the school, because they know chicks are coming,” Davis said. “There’s a real excitement in the air.”
The embryology unit came and went as usual this May, but for Davis the spring was as much about final chapters as it was about new beginnings: After 27 years at the Monkton Central School, Davis said goodbye to her last students this week, and is retiring to travel and focus on hobbies like watercolor painting and craft-making.
Davis is one of more than a half-dozen longtime employees retiring from the Addison Northeast Supervisory Union this year, including: Michael Corey, a special educator leaving Mount Abraham Union High School after 22 years; Donna Smith, a classroom teacher at New Haven’s Beeman Elementary School for 25 years; and Bonnie Katzman, a guidance counselor at the Lincoln Community School for 17 years.
Davis is also one of four longtime employees saying goodbye this year to the Monkton Central, joining Rich Jesset, who is retiring as the principal after 21 years; kindergarten and first-grade teacher Audri Miller, retiring after 18 years as a teacher and 22 years as an employee at the school; and Judy Taylor, a 22-year physical education teacher.
For the retiring teachers, this week’s last days of school were bittersweet. Many said they’d miss the kids they’ve worked with year after year, though they’ll also be taking with them warm memories from countless days in the classroom.
For Davis, there’s the joy of favorite lessons. In addition to Hatch Day, she loved teaching about the polar regions of the Arctic and Antarctic. Another year, she did a unit about the Andes mountain range in South America.
Apparently, the lessons were favorites of students, too. One year, Davis and her third-graders constructed a replica of the Andes using cardboard and papier-mâché. Years later, Davis received a letter from one of her pupils who said the lesson had opened her eyes to the wide world beyond Monkton.
“I’ll run into (parents and students) now and then,” Davis said. “They all have great memories. They’ll ask, ‘Are you still incubating the chicken eggs?’”
For Miller, a highlight was her medieval studies unit every spring. When she was teaching second-graders, she organized a joust toward the end of the year. The whole school got involved, and at lunch the cafeteria staff would serve a medieval-inspired banquet the schoolchildren ate with their hands.
Then, in the afternoon, her students would stage a mock jousting tournament, using large bouncy balls.
“I’ll just always treasure those memories of those spring days with the pennants flying and the school cheering,” Miller said.
P.E. teacher Taylor said she hoped her lessons of sportsmanship and lifelong physical activity would stick with the students she taught over 22 years. Lessons like her walking challenge were popular with students at the school, who tallied miles walked to earn a walking stick or the honor of being Monkton’s “top walker.” One year, Taylor led the school to walk a collective 4,200 miles.
Retiring teachers also spoke warmly of the colleagues and fellow teachers they’ve grown to know over the years. Miller, at Monkton Central, said she always loved how the staff and administration were willing to take risks and try new things. When some schools were busy preparing single-mindedly for standardized tests, Miller and another teacher were allowed to experiment with integrating dance and movement into the curriculum.
“(Principal Rich Jesset) could see the bigger picture,” Miller said.
Jesset, meanwhile, sent his thanks out to the teachers and staff who, he said, put in incredible work over the years to make sure the children reached their potential at the Monkton Central School.
“I want to thank the community and everybody I worked with for giving me the gift of being able to work here,” Jesset said. When he’s out in the community and runs into former students or families and gets a “big hello,” he said, “it warms my heart.”
And at Beeman Elementary School, reading and language arts specialist Donna Smith spoke fondly of the friendships she forged with her colleagues.
“I’ll miss my friends,” Smith said. “They’re like sisters and brothers to me. Some of the teachers in this building have taught almost 30 years, maybe that and maybe over. They’ve been together a long time.”
Taylor said she’d be taking her retirement one day at a time, with no real plans yet except for “sleeping in.” Smith said she was planning to spend time with her 94-year-old mother, and perhaps travel.
Miller, though, said it may not be possible for her to ignore the call of the classroom. She’s moving to the Northeast Kingdom to be closer to her parents, and she’s considering looking for another teaching job once she’s settled.
“I can’t bear to see the buses go in September without me being involved in some way,” she said.
Reporter Kathryn Flagg is at [email protected].

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