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The End of an Era: Brewster High School Teachers Retire after Years of Dedication to Education and Students

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As the end of this school year is just days away, we will soon being saying goodbye to the class of 2017, but we will also be saying goodbye to four of Brewster’s most beloved faculty members: Mrs. Cassels, Mrs. Chamberlain, Mr. Ciavara and Mrs. Sloan, all who will be retiring this month. Each of these people will be deeply missed by Brewster students and faculty. With a combined number of years of teaching totallng over 120, their influence stretches well-beyond this year’s graduating class. Each has contributed their unique talents and dedication to the Brewster High School and its students, and we wish them each a fulfilling retirement. Our gratitude cannot be measured.

Melanie Cassels – Foreign Language

as interviewed by Laura Morini and Mary Heath

For those who haven’t had the pleasure of being in one of her classes, Mrs. Cassels is one of the sweetest, funniest, most caring, and overall amazing people you would ever meet. I had the pleasure of taking her Spanish 3 class my sophomore year and enjoyed her so much as a teacher, that I decided to switch into French my junior and senior years just so I that I could be in one of her classes again. Her passion for language brings the classroom to life and engages each and every one of her students. Mrs. Cassels advised the National Honor Society for 14 years. She has always been a driving force here at BHS, so I was honored, as the president of this year’s NHS Class, to be able to induct her into NHS as an honorary member. At the ceremony, Laura Mornini, another of Mrs. Cassels’ students, gave a moving speech about all of the beloved teacher’s accomplishments.

LM: How many years have you been working at Brewster?

MC: 31 years! I started here in 1986, I was 26.

LM: When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

MC: I think it must have been from when I was really small. My dad (whom I worshipped), my grandmother and two of my aunts were teachers. I used to play school with my brother and his friends who were all younger than I was. I was the teacher and the principal of the “school.” Also, I have always loved office supplies.

LM: What makes teaching “worth it” to you?

MC: When my students leave my room in a better mood than when they came in, I know I made their day better.

LM: Tell me about your favorite memory.

MC: My favorite memory in teaching…that’s so difficult. Every time someone tells me that I was their favorite teacher or that they got so much out of my class. Without a doubt, my most favorite moment is when a beloved student tells me that she or he will be a language major or minor. I was inspired by great teaching, and if I can do that for someone else, that gives what I do real purpose. It makes me incredibly happy.

LM: What’s something that your students may still not know about you?

MC: I have impeccable table manners! Also, if you have any etiquette questions, you should come directly to me. I was raised by the Pilgrims.

LM: If you could give one piece of advice to all your students, what would it be?

MC: Try to find humor in as many situations as you possibly can. If you can laugh, you can keep going. The alternative is to be miserable, and that is no way to live.

On behalf of all her students: Merci beaucoup pour tout Madame, and Muchas gracias por todo.

Susan Chamberlain – Special Education

as interviewed by staff

In 1978, Susan Chamberlain was hired as a leave replacement for the district’s only speech therapist. In 1982, she left Brewster to pursue an MBA and worked for eight years as a college administrator at both Mercy and Marymount College. In 1990, she was lured back to teaching by the principal of JFK, accepted the position, and has been here ever since. She has taught in every school in the district, providing Brewster’s kids with the opportunity to make their voices heard. Bear Facts caught up with Mrs. Chamberlain.

BF: What made you leave your position as a college administrator to come back to teaching at Brewster?

SC: I wanted to return to the job that I knew had real value. And not one day has passed that I haven’t been made to smile by one of my students.

BF: Besides your 1:1 meetings with your students, is there an experience that has special meaning for you?

SC: Every interaction with my students has been meaningful, but I have been teaching a class that has provided me with the opportunity to develop a curriculum that has real world application; the course has evolved into one I am very proud of. It’s the Language and Communication class. Over the last five years, I have made it the expectation of my students to practice speaking and thinking about issues that matter. This has provided them with the challenge of meeting the rising expectations of performing in the world in a productive way.

BF: What will you miss most about teaching in Brewster?

SC: I will miss my students – I have worked with a variety of populations in the district, and I will miss watching them develop confidence in their voices and their abilities to communicate. I’ll also miss my colleagues and the laughter we have shared.

BF: What are you most anticipating about the unstructured days of retirement?

SC: I am excited about being able to enjoy the spontaneity of life.

BF: In addition to being spontaneous, have you made any plans?

SC: I will do more biking and hiking, and I have a summer reading list that currently has eleven titles on it, but since “summer” has suddenly gotten longer, I will be adding to that list. And I’m hoping to do some traveling. I want to go to New England in the fall with my husband, John – because I haven’t been able to travel in the fall for so many years. And my daughter, Leah, and I are planning a trip out west. Of course, as Dallas Cowboys fans, we’re planning another trip to Texas. But really, most of all, I’m looking forward to having the time to find the things about myself that I haven’t yet discovered.

Thank you, Mrs. Chamberlain, for your devotion to your students in Brewster and for the wisdom you have brought to every situation you’ve found yourself in. May your retirement be all that you have planned for it…and especially what you haven’t!

John Ciavara – Science

as interviewed by Georgia Borchert and Mary Heath

After 30 years of dedication to Brewster High School’s Science department, Mr. John Ciavara is retiring at the end of this year, and senior Georgia Borchert was able to sit down with her favorite teacher.

GB: What made you decide to become a teacher?

JC: It was not my plan at all. I was a science major, and I wanted to travel the world, doing complex sciency stuff. In the early 1980s, the price of oil greatly dropped, and many scientists with PhDs lost their jobs. I nearly lost my job because I couldn’t compete with all of the PhDs coming to my department for work. So, I went back to school to further my experience. I got a Master’s Degree in Geology and decided to get a degree in Education, as well. While I was student teaching, I got a call from Brewster, out of the blue. A teacher left on leave in November, and they asked me to be a fill-in for a few months until they found a replacement. And 30 years later, here I am, still teaching science classes at Brewster.

GB: What important lesson have you learned from your students over the years?

JC: I’ve learned so much, but probably the most important is that it’s not all about my class. There are so many different ways to learn and grow, not just through classes, but through experience. And everyone is unique in how they learn. Sometimes a student has a difficult life, and their accomplishments lie in getting up and going to school every morning, not in their grades on tests. It’s important to keep in mind that everyone has a different situation, and learning doesn’t just take place inside a classroom.

GB: If you could recommend one place for anyone to go to some time in their life, where would it be?

JC: Some of the most beautiful, untouched land, is found in Wyoming, Montana and Idaho. I definitely recommend hiking, camping or backpacking through those areas. It’s nothing like I’ve ever seen before.

Christine Sloan – Special Education

as interviewed by Amelia Cuomo

Many know Mrs. Sloan as the senior class advisor, but she is also one of the most hardworking teachers on the Brewster staff. She is someone who rarely gets the recognition she deserves, so we would like to formally thank her for her service as a teacher and as the senior class advisor. BHS senior class president Amelia Cuomo had the pleasure of talking with Mrs. Sloan.

AC: How long have you worked at Brewster?

CS: 24 years in Brewster, but I’ve also taught in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Washington, California, and upstate NY.

AC: What was your first job at Brewster?

CS: I taught third grade – most of my career was spent as a K-3 teacher at Garden Street. I went to CV Starr when Garden Street closed. And two years ago became a high school teacher!

AC: What are your plans for retirement?

CS: We are anxiously awaiting the birth of our first grandchild (a girl) at the end of June and plan to spend time enjoying the baby. We also plan on doing a lot of traveling – first trip booked is to Tahiti, Moorea, Bora Bora and Raiatea (islands in French Polynesia)!

AC: What’s your favorite part about working at Brewster?

CS: I’ve taught many amazing students and have come to know their families. The joy of following and knowing my students from their elementary years to their high school graduations has been a unique experience.

The senior class is especially grateful to her for all that she has done for the class of 2017. Thank you for everything, and enjoy retirement, Mrs. Sloan. You deserve it!

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