Franklin County teachers honored for appreciation week 

  • Lena Jillson, a first-grade teacher at Colrain Central School, was one of 10 Franklin County educators who were honored as part of May’s “teacher appreciation week.” Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Lena Jillson, first-grade teacher at the Colrain Central School, works with Ryan Westort and Sienna Franklin at the school on Wednesday. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Susan Mead, a kindergarten teacher at Hawlemont Regional School, was one of 10 Franklin County educators who were honored as part of May’s “teacher appreciation week.” Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Susan Mead poses for a photo with some of her kindergarten students at the Hawlemont Regional School in Charlemont. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Lauren Paquin, a fourth-grade teacher at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School, was one of 10 Franklin County educators who were honored as part of May’s “teacher appreciation week.” Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

  • Lauren Paquin and her fourth-grade students pose for a photo at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School. Staff Photo/PAUL FRANZ

Staff Writer
Published: 5/28/2019 5:13:21 PM

Ten Franklin County educators have been honored with gift cards and radio announcements in time for May’s “teacher appreciation week.”

The program is run by Emerson Insurance and Financial Services with WHAI and WPQV radio stations.

Among Franklin County’s 10 honorees is Lauren Paquin, a fourth-grade teacher at Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School. She has worked at the school for three years.

Paquin moved from the South Shore to western Massachusetts 11 years ago, seeking a quieter environment to raise her young family.

“The difference is striking. It’s beautiful out here, it’s much more laid back,” Paquin said. “And there’s a lot less traffic.”

After graduating from college and working in nutrition for a couple years, Paquin enrolled in graduate school to pursue a career in teaching.

“I really liked working with kids, and reading and learning, and it just made sense,” Paquin said. While she admitted she was apprehensive about choosing a career that involved plenty of public speaking, she said fourth-graders have been a receptive audience.

After spending a few years raising her three children — now 17, 12 and 10 — she taught as a substitute securing a position at Buckland-Shelburne.

Paquin has spent the majority of her career teaching fourth grade, saying she “lucked out” when she stumbled upon the age group.

“Kids are really coming into their own. They start to become more independent,” Paquin said. “I can joke with them a little bit more, the content is a little more complex.”

Hawlemont Regional School’s longtime teacher Susan Mead was another educator to be recognized. Mead spent her first year out of college teaching in Keene, N.H., before relocating with her husband to Franklin County and finding a job at Hawlemont. Since then, Mead has taught a range of grades, switching to kindergarten six years ago where she has relished the energy and curiosity typical of the age group.

“They’re just super enthusiastic about everything,” Mead said. “They’re explorers. Everything is so exciting for them.”

Mead has watched Hawlemont evolve in her three-decade tenure at the school, seeing the school’s population wane and then rise with the introduction of the HAY Program (Hawlemont, Agriculture and You). More recently, she has embraced the new policy of Forest Fridays, where students spend a couple hours learning outdoors.

While administrators and teachers have come and gone, Mead said the school’s strong sense of community has stayed steady.

“I found that even though there were a lot of changes with administrators, there was something that remained the same,” Mead said. “There’s been this really strong feeling of working as a team, because the school is so small. The teachers and the paraprofessionals become a real community.”

Lena Jillson of Colrain Central School was also recognized through the radio stations’ program. Jillson has taught first grade for her whole seven-year tenure at Colrain.

Though she initially studied music therapy, Jillson realized an interest in education while volunteering at an elementary school and decided to change course. After graduating from college, Jillson worked at Hadley’s Pioneer Valley Chinese Immersion Charter School for a couple of years before returning to her hometown of Colrain and securing a position at the Central School.

While Jillson opted for a career in teaching, she hasn’t forgotten her love of music, holding spontaneous sing-alongs on most afternoons.

“We sing a lot together,” Jillson said. “For first grade, it’s a great way for kids to learn literacy, because we can write a poem down and put it to music, or learn a song and then read the lyrics, so it all ties together.”

Jillson’s ties to Colrain Central extend further back than her seven year teaching tenure, as she attended the school as a child. While Jillson’s memories of Colrain Central have faded, she remembers participating in all-school sing-alongs as a student — an event the school continues to hold each month.

First grade is Jillson’s favorite year to teach, she said, as the students are introduced to new concepts all the time, learning to read, write and do math for the first time.

“I love my job,” Jillson said. “I feel like the staff here, we really support each other, and we work well together.”

The remaining seven Franklin County honorees are: Erik Stone of Newton School; Jenay Haskins of Gill Elementary School; Maureen Antaya of Deerfield Elementary School; Kelly Guertin of Bernardston Elementary School; Ken Vautrin of Franklin County Technical School; Janet Mitchell of Fisher Hill Elementary School; and Marguerite Rancourt of the Discovery School at Four Corners.

Reach Grace Bird at or 413-772-0261, ext. 280.


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