On the morning of Friday, August 25, the district’s education professionals met for a convocation to launch the school year. After a turbulent recent past, the message from the board members, administrators, faculty, and staff was resounding positivity.
One of the event’s highlights was an effective speech given by District Teacher of the Year, Matthew Schlosser. Schlosser, a 5th grade teacher at MHHS, boisterously drove home the important reminder that teaching and inspiring students is a great privilege and responsibility, while keeping the message humorous and accessible through memes, videos, and excellent timing in delivery.
Keeping a consistently light vibe throughout most of the speech, he walked the audience through an entertaining interpretation of the history of teaching. He jazzed his colleagues by highlighting the many remarkable successes that the district gained last year, from academic achievements and sports accolades to inclusive programs and inspiring community service projects.
Long after he had the audience, Schlosser brought them back to a more serious moment with the message that they should “know this…you are making a difference.” He also implored them to stay in the moment and connect, “Don’t be afraid to take risks. Make sure that you have no regrets.”
In keeping with the relaxed and positive atmosphere, the entire assembly played a successful group game, with teachers and administrators in turn going to the podium with an invitation to stand if their coworkers had something in common with them. From “Please stand if, like me, you attended New Fairfield High School” to “Please stand if, like me, you visited another country this summer,” the audience members were all engaged, clapping and laughing together. MHHS teacher, Courtney Danyliw, wrapped the game by explaining that there’s a greater intentional goal to bring new and successful teambuilding to teachers and staff, “Throughout the year we hope to bring you back to this feeling of optimism.”
Board of Education Chair, Steve Burfeind, who will be resigning in November, took the opportunity to express appreciation for the teachers and staff, “I want to thank you for being positive. I want to thank you for not accepting failure. I want to thank you for being resourceful…And, most of all, I want to thank you for being humble.”
Dr. Alicia Roy, perhaps mindful of her impending departure from the district at the school year’s end, delivered a brief, but poignant message about time, beseeching everyone to “enjoy every second.” She also encouraged faculty and staff to “Spend time each day of the school year looking for the silver lining. You won’t have to look far. It will be there!” She also echoed the buoying message of the importance of teaching with the thought that educators have “the profession that makes all others possible.”
The gathering ended with a heartfelt message of thanks from Keegan Finlayson, STEAM Director and Intervention Coordinator, whose family suffered a tragic house fire. He was visibly moved by the support from his colleagues, from the many emails and notes to the donations of money and furnishings. He says that he, his wife, and new baby are well situated now and he is so grateful.
Leaving the convocation, several teachers were pleasantly surprised by the tone of the meeting and happy to receive the positive messages. If all went as obviously planned, they will be bringing the sentiments into the halls and classrooms of the schools this week and into the months ahead.
By Sarah Opdahl