It is my distinct pleasure and privilege to begin this evening’s festivities by honoring several excellent members of our community. I will first recognize our faculty and staff who are reaching milestone service anniversaries. Please join me in congratulating those entering their 10th year at Country School:
Elizabeth Carroll - Upper School Humanities Teacher.
Catherine Mendoza - Early Childhood and Lower School Spanish teacher and alumna from the Class of 1998.
Nancy Montgomery - Assistant Director of Enrollment Management.
And now with a fantastic 20 years of service, I would like to say a few words about Jacqueline Jeffress.
Jacquie first came to NCCS in 1996 as a parent to her kindergarten daughter, Ashley who graduated in 2006 and who just got married last week. Another happy, healthy almost 30-year-old. After a few years as a school parent, Jacquie joined the staff as Assistant to Business Manager John Ziac. As Ashley flourished in the classroom, so did Jacquie in Grace House, building important relationships with friends and colleagues and taking on numerous roles essential to the school’s health and well-being.
As Associate Director of Administrative Services, Jacquie has a hand, often behind the scenes, in everything running smoothly here. From helping kids in the nurse’s office to overseeing photo day, from helping colleagues with benefits matters to working with our front desk, Jacquie’s work quite literally touches every person here.
Thank you, Jacquie for the humor, support, reliability and initiative you bring every day.
Also with 20 wonderful years of service, I would like to recognize Kathy Kravec...
Kathy began her career at NCCS teaching Rhythms classes in the fitness room right here in the Watson Gym with her young son, Michael, in tow. Michael, an alum, is now in his 20s. Though she is no longer Creative Arts Department Chair, Kathy continues to have a guiding hand in countless assemblies, plays and celebrations, ensuring that they are always student-led, child-centric, and well orchestrated. Such has been Kathy’s impact in the classroom that she received the Holmes Faculty Chair in 2014.
Kathy is currently the Director of our fabulous Plus Program and co-director of Service Learning. As she took over the Plus Program, Kathy envisioned a community hub for children that extended beyond the school day. Over the past several years, she has molded a handful of loosely organized after school and summer enrichment activities into a comprehensive and well-enrolled program.
Gracious, humble, authentic, and compassionate, Kathy is always first to volunteer to help a colleague or cover a class, unflappable in any situation, and a great friend to all. Thank you Kathy.
Also, with 20 years of stellar service, I would like to recognize Beth O’Brien …
Beth began her career here as an Apprentice for 2 years in the Lower School. Then she left for several years only to return as a Beginners lead teacher, a position she held for 8 years. Once again she decided to try her hand at another school, only to return “home” this time for good - we hope - working in the Admission Office. Then in January 2012 we were fortunate to have Beth step in as Head of Early Childhood, a role that seems custom made just for her. She has conceived and re-conceived of many of the elements of the Early Childhood program, always looking to best serve children and meet the needs of families. She implemented full-day Kindergarten, reconfigured the Beginners program to its current structure, introduced afternoon Connections, and created the Exploratory Lab. In addition, she regularly leads dynamic professional development and team-building activities for her faculty.
Beth is also the best read person I know. Last year, she asked me for recommendations on books about giving and receiving feedback. I offered her three, and each time she politely told me that she had already read that and then gave me her quick review of it. I took her feedback well and did not offer any more suggestions but realized I should start asking her for recommendations!
Beth is a calm center of energy, confident, forthright, honest, and deeply sensitive to the needs of young children. In the words of one parent, “From every conversation with Beth there is something valuable to be gained - an insight into parenting, a fresh perspective on a tough challenge, or simply a sense of comfort from having been listening to fully with compassion and without judgement.” Thank you Beth, for 20 impactful years here.
And with an extraordinary 40 years of service, an educator who has devoted the entirety of his career to New Canaan Country School…. I would like to recognize Bruce Lemoine.
Bruce started in 1980 as an apprentice. During the spring of that same year, he was asked to take over as the lead homeroom teacher in 6th grade for the remainder of the school year. And the rest, as they say, is history.
Bruce has worn many hats during his time at Country School - some which may be surprises to you: 5th and 6th grade teacher, the first official Head of Middle School (previously there had only been a Lower and Upper division), Apprentice Program director, Director of Academic Records, Technology Instructor, basketball, football and baseball coach, to name a few.
Another very important hat that Bruce wore during much of his time at NCCS is that of proud parent to 3 children who attended from Beginners through 9th grade: Christopher, Class of 2005; Nicholas, Class of 2006 and Bridgette, Class of 2008, who we are delighted has been able to join us this evening.
It was actually through a connection at NCCS that Bruce met his wife Holly. When he was an apprentice, his roommate was another apprentice named Peter Bradley. Bruce and Peter became close friends, and when Peter was set to be married, Bruce was in the wedding party. Throughout those festivities, Bruce met Holly, the sister of Peter’s bride, and the two former apprentices later became brothers-in-law. But it is not over. A few years ago, Peter's daughter (Bruce and Holly’s niece) started her teaching career as an NCCS apprentice just like her father and uncle. Did you follow all that? There’s a reason they say Country School is a circle.
Bruce is a familiar face to students these days in the Maker Lab assisting them with coding and robotics projects. He has long been an advocate for technology in the classroom. Bruce was here when the first computers showed up on campus. He was Head of Middle School when it was the first division to get email in school. And over the decades, he has adapted to the changing landscape of technology, transitioning from Hypercard stacks back in the 1990’s to 3D computer animation, robotics, and 3D printing today. Even this year, he has started coding class for 4th graders. He truly believes the classroom is an experiment, and he is always tinkering and trying new ideas and methods…. The epitome of a lifelong learner himself.
Bruce, your contributions are far and wide and have impacted many lives, possibly more than even you realize. Thank you for dedicating your career to Country School.