BETHEL — Telstar High School students shuffled in from the pouring rain Wednesday, shaking water droplets from their hair as beaming mother-hen teachers greeted them enthusiastically.

On the first day of school, the air buzzed with energy and excitement from students and teachers.

The theme of the year was clear for all: New Year, New Beginning.

Among changes are 47-minute classes instead of the 80-minute sessions. Teachers and students alike said they appreciated the switch. Full-credit classes meet every day, and half-credit classes, every other day.

Another change is dividing the school year into trimesters instead of quarters. The first trimester will end in December, the second in March and the third in June.

While students settled into their respective “satellite” or homerooms, Dean of Students Kristin Dacko and Principal Cheryl Lang were preparing for the welcome assembly. Students began filing into the auditorium from back doors, side doors and emerging from behind the curtain on the stage. Once Lang began to speak, the excited chatter stopped and the students turned their attention to their educational leaders.


Lang and Dacko welcomed each teacher, with students whooping and clapping after each name. They announced each of the graduating classes, starting with the Class of 2020, and the enthusiasm and volume level increased as each graduating year was called, peaking with the Class of 2017, who stood and cheered with excitement at the prospect of this year’s graduation.

Cheryl Ann-Thurston, a senior, has picked out her senior photo and will be participating in the certified nursing assistant program at Region 9 Technical School in Mexico.

“I’m excited it’s my last year, and I’m going to make the most of it,” she said with a smile.

Once the cheering died down, the principal and dean listed off information for the students continuing from last year:

• All lockers must have locks on them;

• Backpacks must be stored in lockers while students are in classes;


• Cellphones must be put away to maintain a successful learning environment; and

• Everyone will eat lunch at the same time.

Lang stressed the importance of attending every day of school, and getting there on time.

Maddy Torraca-Jones, coordinator of Mahoosuc Kids, talked about the programs being offered after school. Each day will entail a different enrichment program. Mondays will be cooking, Tuesdays will be farming and gardening, Wednesdays are reserved for art and other crafts, and Thursdays will include outdoor activities.

The assembly ended with a motivational video titled, “Which Student Are You?” The video’s message contained three main points: that a new year meant a new beginning with new opportunities; education is the key to self-improvement; and if you fall, always get right back up.

Lang asked if anyone had fallen and gotten back up again. One by one, several teachers stood up and told their inspirational stories about overcoming challenges.


Charles Raymond, former dean of students and now alternative learning activities coordinator, told his romantic story of triumph.

“Between my junior year and senior year in high school, I was involved in a motorcycle accident and broke my left femur, which made it impossible to play soccer or hockey in my senior year,” he said. “I was pretty disappointed. But, I ended up falling in love that year, and I ended up marrying that person seven years later, who is now the librarian at Crescent Park (School)!”

Students smiled and seemed to be in awe with the story.

Spanish teacher Merri Lee Ojeda received cheers and laughter when she stood up and said, “In high school, I was a C student in Spanish. Now I teach it!”

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