I'll never forget accidentally setting the fire alarm off in fourth grade and having to tell Mrs. Kutner that I was the reason the whole lower school had to evacuate the building! I will always value my first roommate experiences on our 6th grade trip to Nantucket. My third grade teacher, 'Mrs. P,' becoming her evil twin 'Mrs. T' when the class would misbehave. The 'Buddy' program... which helped me recognize my enthusiasm for working with children.
My teachers at Country School were so caring and nurturing. Their kindness throughout my 10 years allowed me to be me. I thank them and the school for valuing my childhood, letting me grow at my own speed, and giving me all the tools to become a confident adult.
My son, Kwasi, and I lived behind his Kindergarten teacher, Jumelle Jones, at 433 Ponus Ridge Road. We loved being able to walk to school/work through a path leading past the Winter Club. I taught Rhythms in the open Commons space in the Lower School building, and later in a room off the main gym. It was the best job ever! I loved collaborating with Carol Borelli, Linda Shackleford, and classroom teachers for the various productions we did. Having my son as a student for 6 years was pretty cool too. One year, while volunteering at the cotton candy machine during the Fair, I opened the top to add an ingredient. There was a gust of wind that swooped down, lifted the cotton candy into the air shredding it. People were walking around pulling pieces of falling cotton candy out of the air and popping it into their mouths. Magical! The year that I married and moved to Ohio was also the year that Headmaster Nick Thacher retired to follow the calling of his wife, Sally. He said some mighty nice words about me that I treasure to this day.
Head of Lower School Peg Brown used to tease me by calling me the name of a famous Broadway producer. It wasn't Joseph Papp, or Zeigfield but something like that, maybe Billy Rose. I used to always think, "Yeah, right" in a sarcastic kind of way, but doing all of those Hanukkah Festivals, Christmas Pageants, Mummer's Plays, Multi-age Music Assemblies, and various other cross-cultural and multi-generational presentations and events gave me a skill set that I still use today in my teaching and choreography.
Mr. Curly driving big blue van. School bus turning sideways on Old Long Ridge Rd, Stamford and having to get rides home-school didn't close on a bad day. Bomb drills hiding under the counter in Ms. Morris's room in upper school. Rabbits behind lower school and taking them home on vacation. Playhouse in Miss Kline's kindergarten room. Moving to the "new" building for sixth grade and Mr. Whitman and Mr. Abbey having something new planned. The "new" ice hockey rink and walking down the hill to get there. Stained glass windows we made in fifth grade with Mr. Morgan. Fourth grade doing the Olympic Games. Research papers done in the library. No computers then. Shop class with Mr. Bridgeman. Don't forget family style lunches in the dining room with teachers at each table (not a cafeteria.)
Learning and doing activities as a group. Friendly staff. May not have liked it all then, but have good memories of teachers and activities. Sports was a big part of it. Played Field Hockey and Softball. Enjoyed skating when rink opened
Making my first best friend while lined up outside the third-grade classroom; Mr. Gifford's brass, ringing turtle that got us all to stop talking; Selling donuts and hotdogs at the Clothesline Sale down in the "New Gym"; reading Little House on the Prairie in Mrs. Brown's reading group; The Christmas Pagaents and being proud of getting the role as the "cow with the curly horn"; singing "Grandma's Feather Bed" in the grandparents' day assembly; fourth grade "weekly assignments"; burying time capsules in the woods; the structure on the playground that we called "the Enterprise"; waving scarves in Rhythms; the morning Mr. Aime's dog got hit by a car and spending the entire day crying as a class; taking the bus to town and eating at The Deli Bake; playing Speed Ball on the Septic field; snow falling as we left school and headed off for vacation after performing the evening Christmas concert; competing with my classmates on who could write the best lab reports for Mr. Berwick; blueberry cobbler and the ropes course on the Outdoor Action trip; Mr. Davenport giving us "Wednesdays" (i.e., detentions) for walking on the grass; watching as a school as the space shuttle Challenger took off and then exploded; florescent clothing and black rubber bracelets all up and down our arms; writing our "lists" for our yearbook pages; singing the Hallelujah Chorus at graduation;
Although I only attended NCCS for four years, I loved being a part of the community, and think those were the happiest years of my childhood. I loved my teachers, particularly Mrs. Hall in 1st Grade who welcomed me to my new school and helped me fit in and catch up since I hadn't attended a Kindergarten or been part of social group of my peers before; Mrs. Tucker in 2nd Grade who inspired me by introducing us to other cultures and lands, particularly Native Americans, and made the whole world seem magical; My third grade teacher who changed her name in the middle of the year when she got married, taught us binary math, and had us design carved plaster reliefs with ancient Egyptian hieroglyphics (I still have mine!); Mrs. Wescott in 4th grade who encouraged me to read beyond my grade level and strengthened my sense of self worth so that I saw myself as a smart, strong thinker. I loved the friends I made in my class and think I probably skipped everywhere I went because it was all so much fun. Best memory? The Frogtown Fair, one of the most lovely, community building activities, ever.
There has to be a link to my experience at NCCS and my career as a teacher and administrator at private schools. I was inspired by my teachers there and wanted to emulate them. I loved the inclusive community at NCCS and have sought schools to work at on the West Coast that embody that same nurturing and dynamic environment.
My absolute favorite memory is definitely the Outdoor Action Trips. Friendships were created and you got see teachers out of the classroom in a different environment, which is a recipe for a lot of laughs and fun. Of course the occasional visit from a skunk into your tent and cooking on an open fire was always interesting too. Also I remember the Father-Daughter dance and Mr.Perry was kind enough to step in and participate to join me and my mother celebrate the evening. What a caring and wonderful gesture and my family will never forget it.
I attended New Canaan Country School from 1995 and graduated in 1997. While attending Country School, I was going through the most difficult time in my life, my great uncle was dying from cancer. He was basically my father, and his advice was that I have received an opportunity for a wonderful education and to learn as much as possible. All of the teachers spent tireless hours helping me learn and gave me positive reinforcement every single day and reminded me of my promise to my uncle. They constantly encouraged me and told me that I was strong and smart and I could do anything if I put my mind to it. This type of advice changed my self-esteem, my view of myself, and supported me during the good times and the bad, so for that I am forever grateful. When I graduated and left, I had a new sense of empowerment and was prepared to take on the next challenges in my life.
There are so many........Nantucket (and my mother being there because back then some of the chaperones were the class moms!), kitchen crew, pink and yellow weeks, the Winter Club, dogs, Mr. Davenport and the Canterbury Tales, making maple sugar, Mr. Whitlock teaching us how to read the stock pages in the New York Times, Mr. McNaught and Mrs. Barnes asking me to stop talking in class, passing notes, learning the recorder, 9th grade camping trip, Clothesline Sale, Kiki Swiegart, best coach ever, losing our classmate, Paul Johansen, Mother-Daughter Dinner, friends forever.
The biggest impact that Country School has had on me is that I met my husband at Lesley Barnes's wedding 22 years ago! I still keep in touch with many of my NCCS classmates and see some of them on campus as many of us have the privilege of being parents or in my case, past parents. My three daughters, Hannah '13, Elizabeth '15 and Phoebe '15 were lucky enough to start Country School in Beginners (I began in 5th grade.) I watched in awe as they grew as learners but more importantly were encouraged to be good citizens and active participants in the community....something NCCS does so well. It has been so fun to see them with their friends experience so many of the same traditions that I did at NCCS but make their own memories as well.
From Beginners to the End... I vividly remember NCCS Beginners - across the street in an old cozy white house with a red barn...the green carpet, nap time on our own blankets, the playground which had one swing set (3 swings) and we all had to take turns - finding worms in the mud - the red barn held the bicycles we could use, but there was a fake owl propped up high in the corner to scare away birds that scared us all to death. Then kindergarten and beyond - the Christmas pageant, being the 'head angel" wearing wings and pinning my star... Mrs Perrine and Rythmns - never wanting to wear dresses and tights those days as we had to be barefoot and she would make us take off the tights... 2nd grade - Multi-age classrooms! 3rd grade with Mr.Gifford - we were the oldest in the lower school and the top of the heap. Felt so old. Middle school - 5th grade with Mr Davenport and the Canterbury Tales (which I can STILL recite) - the 6th grade Nantucket trip, rubbing grave stones, cranberry blogs, capture the flag. Upper School watching the Stevens building taken down and rebuilt - the tragic loss of our friend Paul Johanson - Singing "morning has broken" and "blackbird" to Greg Erdman's and Ed Bryan's guitar as we dedicated "Pauls place" in ninth grade. From Beginning to End, NCCS was where I grew up and where my roots have been formed and friends became family. 20 years later, in the year 2000 walking back onto the campus with my 3 year old Katelyn - the school had evolved but thankfully, felt exactly the same. I sat in Nick Thatcher's office, now as a parent(!) having the strangest feeling of deja vue bringing me right back to that impressionable awkward teenager that graduated NCCS, and all the vivid memories of my own childhood flooded back. All three of my children started NCCS in Beginners C - Katelyn and Megan have graduated and Teddy is now in the 8th grade. Watching them grow and enjoy the same traditions and moments takes my breath away. Each of them now own the school in the personal way I always felt, as it is their home too.
The memory of my "out of the box" mother on the field hockey field for the mother-daughter field hockey game. The moms all dressed up in funny costumes and wigs and truthfully it was daunting watching them wield those field hockey sticks high in the air! (always a little fearful that the stick would land on our heads, rather than make contact with that scuffed-up white ball on the grass!) Also my mom at the mother daughter dinner. All the poems and songs and funny stories they thought up and added to the evening. It was so touching behind all the laughs and embarrassment. It's a rare thing, very uniquely Country School, this family commitment to the milestones of a young person's education. I am currently raising my son in private school in France and nothing compares to the full circle, family involvement in fun events like those from the old days at Country School. He is gaining other positive memories and gifts for sure, but just in different ways. I also remember sorting clothes for hours at the folding tables in the Watson gym with my mom for the Clothesline sale. I picked up some memorable fashion items at those tables before the doors officially opened for business! What a bevy of vintage awesomeness to be found today at those old tables stacked with cool faded Izod polos, old LL Bean hunting shoes, and some serious wool blue and white norweigen/fair aisle sweaters that made me feel so cool in 8th grade. But the cool you "felt" in your New England preppy uniform at Country School was always the right kind of cool. It was a "cool" community, self confidence, and most of all, happiness.
Best friends then and now. Also a love of learning (in the classroom as well as in the woods or by the ocean) that I continue to exercise today.
Kindergarten: Bert braking his arm falling from the top of the hot steel slide in Mrs. Jones kindergarten class. Kindergarten music-pianos and guitars in most rooms Holiday show: painting angel wings, rehearsals for days, choir robes and candle lights Creating wooden serving trays and painting them for mother’s day. (mom still uses it) 1st & 2nd grade: big thanksgiving celebration activities. Cutting pumpkins and making paper turkeys Rhythms with Ms. Perinne- chopsticks- wooden hula hoops, “can you feel the wind as you soar like a hawk”? 3rd grade: Spraining my ankle during a recess soccer game on a slide tackle on mr. Chase. Sledding on the double hill, snow forts for snowball fights, and shinny hockey during PE The debate of the day….who’s better Mohamad Ali or Joe Fraser? Mets or Yankees? Rangers or Islanders? Jets or Giants? 4th grade in MS: flying erasers in the hallway? MS Art class: how did that clay get on the ceiling? 6th grade: Sex ed. movies…need I say more? Family style meals at every lunch Fall recess with Mr. Shays throwing footballs to 6th graders running patterns with 5th graders covering Which was better? Ms. Kelly’s dance contest at recess….or Ms. Kelly’s motorcycle?! Using the emergency stairs to go to recess from the 3rd floor of the US bldg. Father son dinners with awards for coaches and students and we had guest speakers Evolution-are there really fossils on the nature trail? Shakespeare productions & those mini movies in between scenes! “Wednesdays!” ….clean those blackboards! dust out the erasers! Sweep those buses! Rake those leaves! 9th graders coat & Ties & Dresses EVERYDAY Bus monitors There really are teachers named Stevens, Thacher, Welles, Carter, Synsvedt, Burns, Jones, Martin, Perrine, etc.
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