Year’s end at Pelham High

Published 9:59 am Friday, May 27, 2011

Catherine Schmidt, Emily Sansom, Rachel Scott, Lele Willis and Kane Agan display their work ethic as they push on to the very end of school to complete the literary magazine. (Special/Connie Nolen)

By CONNIE NOLEN / Community Columnist

The last book that honors English 11 reads each year is “Tuesdays with Morrie.” This true story is told by Mitch Albom, who was Morrie’s student. Morrie was Mitch’s favorite professor in college. Reading this book each spring causes me to reflect on the impact of teachers.

The past year has been tremendously difficult. We’ve lost students and coworkers at PHS. Dealing with the most difficult losses has put other challenges in a new perspective.

PHS teacher Kara Ellis said, “Seeing my colleagues and my students hurt from these losses has really affected me. The construction at Pelham has been my biggest challenge of the year. I have been without a classroom for the past nine weeks and I don’t see how some teachers have managed without a classroom the entire year. Not having all of my resources with me makes being an effective teacher very hard.”

As tough as it to teach without a classroom, Ellis said her struggles have been trivial by comparison. Ellis has taught in my classroom on many occasions, and her teaching methods are inspiring. Quickly mastering my room’s audio equipment, she had her students presenting popular music clips to illustrate literary terms. Although Ellis may feel scattered, she is impressively composed and she is always kind, respectful and compassionate.

Other teachers have endured struggles. Completing a demanding graduate school program, PHS teacher Laura Cochran admits to being tired. When I gave my senior writers the opportunity to write a thank-you note to a PHS teacher or staff member, I realized how well Cochran had hidden her fatigue. 2011 graduate Rachel Abel wrote to Cochran, “Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedule to take care of us, and thank you for going the extra mile in everything. You’re the best!”

My students wrote more notes to PHS teachers thanking them for their guidance, hard work, compassion and devotion. Students appreciated their teachers for setting good examples and for taking on extra duties to provide opportunities outside of the classroom.

Our lesson plans are full of academic objectives, but the students focus on the life skills their teachers have demonstrated.

The last sentence of “Tuesdays with Morrie” is: “The teaching goes on.”

I hope this last line is correct. As teachers rest, I hope that students continue reflecting, and I hope that the teaching goes on long after they leave us.

Connie Nolen can be reached by email at