NHS Graduate Heading To College With Gifts From Elementary Teacher
Liv Deschenes, a 2021 Newtown High School graduate, is heading to college with gifts and a blast from her past, thanks to her first elementary school teacher.
Liv — who will study music engineering at the University of Vermont, Burlington, this fall — was reunited with her former Head O’ Meadow Elementary School teacher Carol Howard recently after Liv’s parents, David and Kathleen, signed her up to be “adopted” through a Facebook page. According to Liv, the Facebook page connected graduating high school seniors with people in the community who volunteered to create care packages and offer gifts to give the students before they head off for college in the fall.
Howard happened to spot her former student through the online campaign and “scooped her up,” she said in a recent phone interview.
Liv and Howard were just one pair that connected through the effort, but Howard had something special for Liv.
Reflecting on her early education, Liv said Howard was her teacher in kindergarten — and the next year, too. “We were the first year she taught first grade.”
Howard said that year, when she transitioned to teaching first grade, parents of students from her kindergarten class could opt to have the students continue with her in first grade. After 25 years of teaching at Head O’ Meadow in total, Howard decided to retire during the 2020-21 school year. The Newtown resident had mixed emotions about retiring, but it was time.
When Howard cleaned out her classroom, she discovered many things. One of those things was a collection of student-made books. Each year, Howard explained, she had her graduating first grade students write entries for a book that was then compiled for the next year’s class. The entries described what first grade would be like, things the students enjoyed, and more.
“The books each year were called ‘Dear Future First Graders,’” Howard said.
When Howard first reached out to Liv, her former student was surprised.
“I didn’t think my first grade teacher would adopt me... I was really touched. It was kind of a full-circle moment,” said Liv in a phone interview.
Howard remembered, “I thought it was just the epitome of being a teacher... Sending her off to college.”
After connecting in July, Howard put gifts together for Liv to take to the University of Vermont. The pair then met at Liv’s parent’s home and Howard also presented Liv with the “Dear Future First Graders” book.
Liv said her entry in the book was basically “a novel.”
“I wrote about how I loved to write, how I love to read, and math... It’s really cute,” said Liv. “I wrote about all the subjects and how I love them and you [the new first graders] will love them too.”
Liv remembers learning to love reading and writing from Howard, and a collection of books the students could read in the classroom.
“I remember just loving that bookshelf,” said Liv. “...She just kind of introduced all these different topics and reading about things and educating yourself.”
In particular, Liv remembers books about Rosa Parks. Liv’s love of reading started in that first grade classroom “with those books that she just let us read.”
Howard said she has “Dear Future First Graders” books for each year she taught first grade and she hopes to eventually find someone from each class to give that year’s book to.
After giving the first book to Liv, Howard said, “It was just so meaningful... It made me feel so good after.”
“She was so young in kindergarten and now she is off to college,” said Howard. She added later, “It was a blessing to be able to adopt Liv.”
The entire process, Liv reflected, shows “how kind Newtown teachers are and how they really just care about their kids.”
Liv expressed gratitude for Howard and her “thoughtfulness that helps kids really appreciate learning and appreciate what they have.
“She just really cares about the people she works with, and I think that is probably the most admirable trait a teacher could have,” said Liv.
Along with the book, Howard gave Liv University of Vermont gifts, food, and more.
And Liv said she is taking “everything” with her to college.
Reporter Eliza Hallabeck can be reached at email@example.com.