The 2022-2023 school year was a year of beginnings for many of the faculty at Samuel Staples Elementary School.
Increasing enrollment, among other factors, led to the Easton School Board to approve hiring 14 new faculty members. The new teachers hired teach pre-kindergarten and second grade, as well as art, music and physical education.
With so many new faces, it might seem like a daunting task to integrate everyone successfully, but SSES Principal Kimberly Fox Santora said that it is not as challenging as one might think.
“We are in the business of relationships, so establishing a meaningful connection is a priority,” said Fox Santora. “The design of our grade level neighborhoods in our school actually lends itself nicely to this effort to connect people. I think the hardest part might be remembering the names of everyone at SSES. We are a big staff.”
Among these new names is Harlan Otter, who teaches music at SSES. Otter said it was gratifying seeing so many students enjoying in-class music his first year at the school now that pandemic restrictions have eased.
“Elementary-aged students engage so much more wholly in the live classroom, and it’s been so rewarding to see the musical progress my students have made,” Otter said.
The school’s thriving band program, in addition to the importance the school places on the Orff method, were among the reasons that he applied for the position. The Orff method is a style of teaching music to children through the incorporation of elements of play, allowing students to engage with it at their own level of understanding.
Otter was hired to replace an outgoing music teacher, but filling vacancies was not the primary reason for the hiring surge.
Fox Santora said the school’s demographer projected a larger than normal incoming kindergarten class. This led to the hiring of two new kindergarten teachers, Allison Fecteau and Fiona DeVeaux.
Fecteau said that her philosophy of teaching directly aligns with SSES’s mission statement.
“As a kindergarten teacher, I believe it is important to create a classroom environment where students acquire skills, knowledge, and a love for learning,” she said. “I believe in teaching the whole child and meeting educational goals as well as social-emotional needs.”
While the sizable incoming kindergarten class facilitated the need for additional kindergarten teachers, the large number of students moving to first and second grade that needed academic support in reading, writing and math meant that there needed to be new teachers for those grade levels as well. More teachers mean smaller class sizes, which allows interventionists to give students the support that they require.
The addition of new classroom sections also requires the addition of more physical education and art classes, which led to the hiring of Samantha Sabia to teach art. Yan Otter has also come on board as a part-time physical education teacher.
“We have had a remarkably wonderful school year,” said Fox Santora. “I am so pleased with the new staff who helped to make this year a great one for our students. Each of these fine new hires has consistently displayed dedication and a desire to be excellent at their craft. Each team or department has welcomed their new colleagues, and I see many wonderful ways in which each team/department has collaborated in meaningful ways.”
Fecteau said her first year at SSES has been wonderful. “Our class has truly become a family where we have had the opportunity to learn together and grow with each other.”
Being an elementary school teacher might seem overwhelming from the outside looking in, but to Fecteau the biggest challenge was not in the classroom or in faculty meetings but rather in “the bittersweet feeling of sending students off to first grade.”
Fox Santora said that the school anticipates reducing one section of kindergarten and adding a section of third grade for the 2023-2024 school year. She hopes to find teachers who are interested in changing grade-level assignments.
The full list of new faculty at SSES for the 2022-2023 school year can be found below.
Claire Conway – PreK-3
Stephanie LaRosa – PreK-4
Allison Fecteau – Kindergarten
Fiona DeVeaux – Kindergarten
Cassidy Meenan – Grade 1
Kyla Ricci – Grade 2
Jenna Racca – Grade 2
Samantha Sabia – Art
Harlan Otter – Music
Yan Otter – Physical Education
Dominika Pellegrini – Psychologist
Monica Bien-Aime – Social Worker
Tim Eddis – Special Education BASES Teacher
Lindsay Moeller – Special Education