Retiring Esprit House staff looks forward to family time (6/11/09)

June 11, 2009

By Tim Simard

Observer staff

Looking back at a combined teaching experience of 84 years in Williston, Allen Brook School’s Esprit House teachers Jeanne Desilets and Nancy Leonard, along with teaching assistant Bev Klandl, said they wouldn’t trade a minute of it.


    Observer photo by Tim Simard
Esprit House teaching assistant Bev Klandl (from left) and teachers Jeanne Desilets and Nancy Leonard, pictured above, are retiring to spend more time with family.

The three Esprit House staff members are retiring this week. While they look forward to what the future holds, they also recognize how bittersweet it will be to leave the school district and its students.

“I truly appreciate getting to know the families,” Leonard said. “It’s really become that family connection.”

“We just learn so much being here, so we’re really the lifelong learners,” said Klandl.

Since Esprit House formed 14 years ago, Desilets, Leonard and Klandl have helped steer the team through many changes, including a move from Williston Central School to Allen Brook. Now, their fellow Esprit House team members, which include teachers Kim Deforge and Suzy Haas, will be forging ahead.

“It’s a great time for them to make it their own,” Desilets said.

But even with changes in society, technology and Williston’s population, some things remain the same.

“Kids are kids are kids,” Desilets said. “Kids are still wonderful kids.”

Desilets, a third and fourth grade teacher, has taught in Williston for 33 years. She graduated from the University of Vermont in 1972 with a degree in physical education and a minor in math. After living in St. Johnsbury and teaching there for a year, Desilets and her family moved back to the Champlain Valley. Desilets took a job as a math aid in 1976 and soon moved into a teaching position.

Leonard started in Williston 22 years ago in 1987. She taught for a year in Rutland after graduating from Beaver College in Pennsylvania. After taking time off to raise a family, Leonard became a first and second grade teacher at Williston Central.

Klandl, also a UVM graduate, was hired by the school district 29 years ago as a teaching assistant. Before that, she volunteered with the school when her children entered first grade. Klandl said she had no idea back in 1980 that she’d still be helping students and teachers in Williston.

“It just seemed to fit really well into my kids’ schedule in the beginning,” Klandl said.

Following the end of the year, all three have similar plans for the future — traveling and spending more time with grandchildren, and sometimes a combination of the two. Klandl hopes to see her grandchildren in Maryland more often now that she won’t have to worry about scheduling visits around school vacations.

Leonard also hopes to spend more time seeing the country and visiting her grandchildren.

“I will be a better known nana,” Leonard said with a laugh. “After that, I’m not sure. I’m looking forward to keeping my options open.”

Desilets said she’s embarking on a new career of caring for her first grandchild. While her daughter, Corinna Hussey, teaches math at Champlain Valley Union High School, Desilets will help raise her new granddaughter.

“That’s the plan and I needed that plan because I’m a very busy person,” Desilets said.

All three will miss watching students grow and learn, but know that Esprit House will stay strong even after they leave. Desilets, Leonard and Klandl also said they’re glad they taught in Williston and couldn’t imagine spending their career anywhere else.

“Here in Williston, we’ve always felt both supported and valued,” Leonard said.