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Photo by Jill Soto

It’s Teacher Appreciation Week and, in honor of the special occasion, teachers and students in New Fairfield will be able see each other in person–properly physically distanced, of course–for the first time since mid-March. Parades that will wend through town are happening for elementary students on Tuesday, March 5, and for secondary students on Thursday, March 7.

New Fairfield Middle School Library Media Specialist, Danielle Sullo, jumpstarted the parade planning after she watched a school parade pass by her house a few weeks ago, “I reached out to my principal [Christine Baldelli], Dr. Pat, and my friend, NFMS para educator, Malissa Harber and the rest is history.” Superintendent, Dr. Pat Cosentino is excited about the parade, saying, “I am hoping the parade lets our students and families know how much the staff misses them. My message to the parents who are now homeschooling their children is we appreciate all you are doing and give yourselves a pat on the back!”

Sullo explained that she and Harber spent a lot of time planning the parades and have had remarkable response, with over 150 staff members planning to take part in driving the route. Staff members were encouraged to deck out their cars and have a family member drive, so that they can wave and enjoy seeing the students. Harber said of the parade, “Honestly, I am looking forward to seeing the kids’ smiling faces and their school spirit! I miss them so much!”

On Monday night, the evening before the elementary parade, parent Houn Abdulrazak said her parade-going daughters were “very excited and they’ve made a few signs. I’m hoping we can catch the parade at the end of our road. It’s going to be a fun morning, for sure.” While faculty spent the evening prepping for what would be an emotionally charged day ahead, such as second grade teacher Meghan O’Rourke, whose “hope is that when the children see their teachers ‘in person’ that it will not only put a smile on their faces but will also let them know how much we miss them and how proud we are of all their hard work.”

Teacher appreciation will be celebrated in other ways throughout the week, with Cosentino notifying staff that in honor of their dedication to students, families, and the New Fairfield community a $250.00 donation has been made to each of the community organizations in the name of the New Fairfield Public School Staff to the NF Department of Social Services, the NF Food Pantry and the NF Economic Development Commission grant program. She went on say, “These organizations are assisting New Fairfield residents who need support during these difficult times. Like all of you, they are caring and committed to making our world a better place.”

Throughout the district teachers are being recognized, with Consolidated School and Meeting House Hill School partnering with the Goodie Shoppe to offer staff a free cup of coffee. They’ve alliteratively themed the week Laugh, Love, and Lift one another. Consolidated School’s Assistant Principal, Karen Gruetzner said that, though physically distant, they are together in spirit, “We will also be engaging the staff in some friendly competitions, games, and contests throughout the week, in addition to taking some time to show our appreciation for one another.” New Fairfield Middle School ran the first-ever Thank-a-Teacher art contest to have students create artwork that will be turned into digital cards for parents and students to send to the teachers. There are activities scheduled throughout the week for NFMS staff from a trivia night to a scavenger hunt.

Cosentino’s message to staff is “I want everyone to know that I am so very proud of our teachers and staff during this time. You are doing fabulous work and you all matter!” Regarding the parades, she expressed hope that they “lift the spirits of the whole New Fairfield community and sends the message, we are all in this together.”

By Sarah Opdahl