By Rowan Beck
Not only will CVU be saying goodbye to its most recent graduates but also to three longtime teachers and one paraeducator, most of whom have been there for more than two decades. This year Patricia Heather-Lea, math (34 years); Cynthia Pasackow, A.P. calculus (34 years); Claudia Moore, school nurse/health (24 years); and Mary Rogers (16 years), paraeducator, will be retiring. They have graded their last exams, cleaned up their classrooms, and attended graduation. As they reflected on their years at CVU they were as emotional as parents seeing their own child graduate. They remembered all the great times, laughs, and numerous students who passed through their classrooms. They have also seen the student population grow from 740 to its current population of 1,365.
Over the years these ladies have not been met with an easy task. They have learned to “love and let go every year.” Heather-Lea continued warmly, “Every year those doors open up and we never know what we are going to get. We need to meet them where they are at, show them we are human, and have hearts. We need to be positive role models and develop positive relationships. You never know how you’re going to touch someone’s life. We must be open-hearted and present.” Nurse Moore echoed her sentiments, her task sometimes even more challenging since often times she is not meeting a student at their best. “We really need to look at the kids and see how they are,” Moore said.
All of these women have been successful in this endeavor. They continue to bump into students who remember them and tell them how they impacted their lives. Students also come back to visit from time-to-time. Heather-Lea recently ran into a former student at a lecture at Middlebury College. She had taken the time to write him a card when he was down. He came up to her and said, “Thank you so much. I still have your card.” Tears came to her eyes as she told her story. Moments like these encouraged Heather-Lea to plan a potluck as one final way to reach out to past students. All are encouraged to visit, bring food, and share stories this Saturday, June 22 from 5-7 pm at Holley Hall in Bristol. Catching up with past students brings a smile to Moore’s face as well. She laughed as she recalled seeing past students, now married, on Shepardson Five at Fletcher Allen where she works part-time in maternity.
One of the biggest challenges these teachers have faced over the years is the introduction of social media. There is so much information out there and it constantly bombards students. To meet this and other challenges, CVU has advisors. These women enjoy “advisory time” because they meet daily, the groups are smaller, and as a result the connection is deeper. Each agreed that the feeling of community runs strong and deep at CVU.
Throughout their many years the women have also shared many funny moments. Winter Carnival Day was an overall favorite. They especially enjoyed the culminating event, Trike Day, where students are given pieces of a bike to convert into a trike with three wheels touching the ground. Once assembled a trike race ensued. The faculty trike improves every year because they don’t have to start from scratch. “There is so much spirit,” they all agreed.
These four women will miss CVU but are going to move on and enjoy spending time with their families and working in the community. Pasackow “will enjoy being on my own schedule and planned a trip to Portugal to celebrate my retirement.” Heather-Lea will continue to “breath, say daily prayers, sing, and practice raki.” And Moore can be found part of the time in the maternity wing at Fletcher Allen or “folding laundry at home,” she chuckled. They are all thankful for the time spent at CVU. “I’ve really loved teaching here,” offered Pasackow “I’ll take away so many great memories and look back on my years at CVU with much satisfaction and pride.” To which Rogers added, “May we all take a moment to be thankful for the many wonderful people who surround us.” These women will be missed and have left some big shoes to fill. May we all be so fortunate to find more mentors like them.