Retiring WHS teachers honored

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12 Educators Talk About Their Years at the High School

By Patrick Cronin

Hampton Union, Tuesday, June 30, 2009

[The following article is courtesy of the Hampton Union and Seacoast Online.]

Winnacunnet High School faculty members retiring this year pose for a photo following a celebration of their service at the WHS dining hall on Thursday, June 25. Appearing are Steve Bauer, Gladys Benshimol, Jerome Damren, Patricia Desautels, Don Foote, Rod MacDonald, Kevin Mullavey, Lucie Oliver, Janis Petrou, Robert Riffe, and Rebecca Thompson.

HAMPTON -- The Winnacunnet community said goodbye to 12 retiring staff members Thursday, including one who has been teaching physical education at the school for 42 years.

"Over the years I had over 11,000 kids in my classes," said physical education teacher Don Foote. "There's been a lot of names and lot of faces, and I remember them all."

All 12 retires were honored during a breakfast Thursday, at the regional high school hosted by The Winnacunnet School Board.

Principal Randy Zito called it a sad day with the school losing 343½ years worth of experience.

"Many of these people set the standards for Winnacunnet," Zito said. "We are who we are because of them.

"Many of the things we do and the programs we have is because these people created them," the principal said.

During the breakfast each of the outgoing retirees was given a book that had personal meaning for them. A copy of that book will be placed in the school's library with the teacher's name inscribed on the back cover.

Social studies teacher Kevin Mullavey selected "Requiem," while English teacher Robert Riffe picked "Masterpieces of World Literature."

Lucie Oliver, who taught Latin at the school for 30 years, selected "The Book of Dead Philosophers," while food service worker Patricia Desautels picked the "Greatest Generation" in honor of her 19 years of service.

Jan Petrou called it bittersweet to be retiring after 35 years at the school. Petrou started as a teacher in 1974, teaching home economics for 15 years, and worked her way up to serving in the administration.

"I feel like a student who is graduating, wondering what is next," Petrou said.

Spanish teacher Marsha Robinson said she is looking forward to retirement after 26 years at Winnacunnet.

"I'm excited to do whatever, whenever," said Robinson.

And while the majority of the retirees said they are looking forward to taking it easy, others like Rebecca Thompson will return next year on a part-time basis.

Thompson taught English for 28 years and for the last seven has been a work experience teacher at the school.

"My favorite thing to teach was American literature," Thompson said. "I loved the challenge of teaching classic authors that kids thought they weren't going to enjoy and then at the end having them say 'I love this book.'"

Other retirees honored were special service teacher Gladys Benshimoil, science teacher Steve Bauer, and social studies teachers Jerome Damren and Rod MacDonald.

Foote, a Winnacunnet High School graduate, received special recognition during the breakfast because he has been teaching at school the longest.

School Board member Henry Marsh said he went to school with Foote and recalled a funny story on how both of them decided to pursue a career in education.

"We were both in the same homeroom senior year and we had a career event," Marsh said. "We had to write on a three-by-five card what our career was going to be.

"I said to Donny (Foote) 'What do you think we should do?'" Marsh said. "He said if that guy (pointing at the teacher) can be a teacher, we can to.'"

Foote said its been great teaching at the school that he went to. He said his favorite memory was being the soccer coach who lead a team that went undefeated three years in a row.

Foote said a lot has changed over the years.

"I remember back in early '70s a kid being suspended from school because he had long sideburns," Foote said. "That doesn't happen now."

But the one thing that hasn't changed has been his passion for teaching.

"I always loved being classroom with the kids," Foote said. "That was the best part of my job."

North Hampton School Board member Henry Marsh (right) honors Winnacunnet High School teacher Dan Foote for his 42 years of service with a book dedication during a celebration for retiring faculty in the WHS dining hall on Thursday, June 25, 2009.
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