Patriot’s Pen essay contest winners were announced Thursday morning, Nov. 9, at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay. Pictured from left are third place winner Jailinn Fortin, second place winner Avery Cook, first place winner Landyn Anthony, their teacher Denise Acritelli and Kim Cote, VFW auxiliary member who oversees the contest. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

JAY — At a Spruce Mountain Middle School assembly Thursday morning, Nov. 9, winners of the Patriot’s Pen essay contest and teacher Denise Acritelli were recognized by members of Veterans of Foreign Wars [VFW].

Jim Manter, judge adjutant for VFW Post 3335 in Jay welcomed the students and noted he was a 1975 graduate of Livermore Falls High School. Among the veterans seated behind him were Pat St. Clair, principal of the elementary school and Craig Collins, dean of students/athletic director at the middle school.

Several veterans shared what specific sections of the Pledge of Allegiance meant to them.

Manter noted 28 middle school students wrote essays this year through the efforts of their teacher Acritelli. Kim Cote, Post 3335 auxiliary member oversees the contest, he added.

“We are so thankful, you do a lot of work for the children,” Cote said.

The contest theme this year was “How I am Inspired by America.” The three winners are all in the seventh grade.


During an assembly Thursday morning, Nov. 9, at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay winners of the Patriot’s Pen essay contest were announced. Six other students will have their essays sent to regional VFW Posts lacking entries in the contest. Pictured from left are students Cole Welch, Avery Castonguay, Jackson Marsten-Blaise, Melody Hubble, Madelyn Rowley, Lea Smith, Jailinn Fortin, Avery Cook and Landyn Anthony with their teacher Denise Acritelli. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

First place winner Landyn Anthony wrote about farmers feeding America and the military keeping people safe. He noted Acritelli teaches life lessons and what is going on in the world.

Spruce Mountain Middle School teacher Denise Acritelli reacts after being announced VFW teacher of the year During an assembly Thursday morning, Nov. 9, at the school in Jay. Jim Manter, judge adjutant of VFW Post 3335 in Jay is seen at left. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

“She inspires me to always work hard, to do my best no matter what, that I am a strong person and to never give up,” he wrote.

Avery Cook, who placed second is inspired by his dad, who travels all over the country working so his family can have a good life. He is also inspired by Jeremy Swayman, Boston Bruins goalie – because he doesn’t try to show off and stand out – and his two grandfathers who served in the military.

“Gazillions of things inspire me every day,” he wrote.

Third place went to Jailinn Fortin who noted the number of books published annually and how many could be produced from one tree. She is inspired by authors and the variety of books she can read.

“I am inspired by my Pepe who was in the Navy because he saved many lives,” she wrote. He taught never give up, always keep pushing forward and to keep going even when scared, she noted.


Denise Acritelli at right is hugged by daughter Emily Thursday morning, Nov. 9, at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay where Acritelli was named teacher of the year by VFW Post 3335, also in Jay. Seen from left during the presentation are her husband Bill, Jon McKenna and daughter Alison. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Cote noted some students would have their essays sent to other VFW posts in the region that did not receive contest entries. Essays from sixth graders Lea Smith and Madelyn Rowley will be sent to Auburn. Seventh graders Melody Hubble and Jackson Marsten-Blaise will have their entries sent to Rumford. South Paris post will receive essays from sixth grader Avery Castonguay and seventh grader Cole Welch.

Manter then recognized Acritelli as the VFW teacher of the year. She has been involved with the essay contest for more than 20 years with almost 600 entries submitted through her efforts, he noted.

Students stand and applaud during an assembly Thursday morning, Nov. 9, at Spruce Mountain Middle School in Jay. Teacher Denise Acritelli was named as the VFW teacher of the year. Seen from left in front are her team colleagues Rachel Toner, Julie Taylor and Nic Chouinard. Pam Harnden/Livermore Falls Advertiser

Acritelli was presented with gift cards from the post and surprised by the appearance of family members. Her husband, Bill and her two daughters Emily and Alison, along with Alison’s boyfriend Jon McKenna shared hugs and presented flowers to an overwhelmed Acritelli.

Team colleagues Rachel Toner, Julie Taylor and Nic Chouinard also gave flowers to Acritelli. Students gave her a standing ovation and hearty applause.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or login first for digital access. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.