Terri Lessard, instructional coach at Champlain Elementary School, is retiring after 35 years in education. She worked in Burlington School District educating students and staff in three different BSD schools for 31 years. She was the go to person when you needed help on teaching literacy or had a question about classroom management. And she was generous–sharing with us a wealth of knowledge and ideas. Her legacy will be with us for years to come and we will miss her greatly.
…the moments that stand out are the moments when it was clear that you made a connection, the moments when it was clear that you made a difference. That you were that one “person” for that one student who needed to be seen, heard, validated, respected, and cared for.Terri Lessard
Words from Terri:
I began my teaching career in 1985 in Milton at the Herrick Avenue School teaching 4th grade. After 4 years there I was hired in Burlington where I have taught ever since for a total of 35 years as an educator, 31 of them in Burlington. When I first came to Burlington I taught for 11 years at Lawrence Barnes (currently known as SA). Following that, I taught at JJ Flynn Elementary for 15 years until leaving the classroom for a district coaching role. While in the classroom I taught every combination of 1st – 4th that you can think of; 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th straight grades, 1-2 looping as well as 1/2, 2/3 & 3/4 multi-age combinations. For 2015/16 school year, I was asked to step into the role of the district’s literacy coach for all 6 K-5 schools. I held that position until 2 years ago when the coaching model switched to an embedded model and I joined the Champlain staff as their instructional coach. Since entering teaching I have always been a union member. When I was in Milton I worked as the grievance person for 2 years and later I was part of the BSD negotiation committee for 5 rounds of contract negotiations.
Like many educators, the moments that stand out are the moments when it was clear that you made a connection, the moments when it was clear that you made a difference. That you were that one “person” for that one student who needed to be seen, heard, validated, respected, and cared for. Those moments are private so I don’t wish to share them here, but there are many that I will be taking with me as I move away from this career that I have loved for the past 35 years. I will miss the kids, and many of my colleagues, but I know that it is time for me to step away. As I do I move joyfully toward new coastal adventures near Wilmington, NC where I am looking forward to days filled working with rescue dogs, gardening, kayaking, and who knows what else and isn’t that great, knowing there are mysteries and unknown paths to come?
My advice for new teachers, in fact for all teachers:
- Stay current, that is your professional responsibility
- Come fully into every day, your students deserve nothing less
- Love what you do. This is not a career where ambivalence is enough. If you are ambivalent about your role as an educator, get out, go find your passion.
It has been an honor to walk and work among you.
With love, respect, and gratitude I say so long.
Words from Colleagues:
“Dear Terri, You have been with me since day one of working for the Burlington School District. You are an amazing inspiration to work hard and problem solve anything that comes your way. Thank you for all that you have done for me and for our school community!” Vi Courville
“Terri, It has been such a pleasure to work with you and learn from you both at Smith and Champlain. You have been such a tremendous support to classroom teachers over the years, and for that you will be so missed. Your expertise has helped to shape many of us and touched many of our students. I am so happy for you to journey south and begin many new adventures. Enjoy this new chapter (and warmer weather), and congratulations on a well deserved retirement!!” Brittany Young
“It is hard to imagine this district without Terri. For years she’s served many different roles in both our district and our union. She has been tirelessly devoted to improving our district. Most recently, she has worked as an advocate for improving literacy work in our district, bringing best practices to all of us, and as a leader in our instructional coaching model. While she is leaving and her leadership will be missed, her work will continue to live on for many years to come both by the students and the educators she has taught.” Andrew Styles
“Terri, You will be so, so missed at Champlain next year. I remember going into your classroom with Jane Miller fourteen years ago and I vividly recall the magic that was working in your classroom. Respectful students all engaged in their work with a teacher who led the charge with empathy and expertise (and there were some pretty amazing anchor charts as well!!). You have been such a leader in the district and I hope to one day emulate your ability to lead and listen. Thank you so much for your guidance and encouragement. Enjoy the warm weather and please keep in touch!!” Lots of love, Tracey Bellavance
I have learned so much from you these past few years and I’ve truly enjoyed our time together. Thank you so much for always offering support and guidance – I’m a better teacher because of you. Congratulations on your well deserved retirement! Love, Jess Burns
“Dear Terri, Congratulations on an amazing career. You have helped our school grow in so many ways from improving the schedule to remaking the leveled library. Countless teachers have improved their practice with your guidance. You assisted my development as an educator with keen insights and a willingness to take ideas and run, such as developing new word study menus . Your commitment to this profession, to improving instruction and learning is remarkable. I wish you the best of luck on this new adventure and would respectfully ask that you send along a picture of the first alligator you find. Gavin Wallace
“We will miss you Terri Lessard! Terri has taught most (if not all!) grade levels K-5, in multiple Burlington elementary schools, wrapping up her long career as a district literacy/instructional coach. She has been a passionate educator always working to do what’s best for kids, while generously supporting her colleagues. She spent many years active in the BEA advocating and negotiating fair contracts for teachers. Terri’s creativity, sense of humor and deep knowledge of content and practice make her one of our strongest and most effective educators. We will miss her! And we wish her well as she moves on to future life adventures!”
“Dear Terri, You are one incredibly dedicated teacher especially when it comes to literacy. I would be hard pressed to find someone as fierce and passionate as you! Thank you for all your work throughout the years at BSD and finally at Champlain as a coach these last few years. Your work will be remembered! Wishing you (and your fur baby) all the best as you start your new life in North Carolina! Hope to hear updates every now and then!” Love Betsy Greene