The Telstar High 2024 valedictorian is Makenzie Eliot. Rose Lincoln/Bethel Citizen

BETHEL — “I don’t really look at him as my principal, I see him as dad first,” said Makenzie Eliot, Telstar 2024 valedictorian of her father Principal John Eliot.

In the Fall, Eliot will head to University of Maine Orono on the National Army Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship for four years.  She will study Nursing and Army ROTC to become an army nurse when she graduates.

Starting in kindergarten, Eliot has been coming to Telstar everyday, on the bus from Crescent Park when she was in elementary school, then as a middle and high school student these past six years.

“I love it, I couldn’t imagine him not being here,” she said of her father’s steady presence. She’d do her homework while waiting for him, when he was a special education teacher, later when he was dean, and since last year when he became Telstar High School principal.


Eliot admits she’s a little nervous about committing to ROTC.


Makenzie Eliot, center, with her parents, John and Tanya. Rebekah Howe Coolidge photo

“You’re committing to something you don’t know. At the same time you’re doing something you love. You’re going to be a nurse in the army. You’re serving your country. You’re traveling the world. In my eyes, there’s the risk you might not like it, but look what you’re going to get from it,” she said.

After college she’ll serve four years of active duty and then decide if she wants to do another four years of active duty or four years of reserve.

She hopes to play club soccer and softball, along with her nursing school studies and ROTC responsibilities.

Eliot said she was initially considering veterinary studies, but decided she had, “way too much empathy for animals. I actually do better working with people who are injured,” she said.

Her aunts, Denise Eliot Pruett, of Waterford, and Dawn Eliot Johnson, of Greenwood, helped her figure out her path with insight into their own nursing and veterinary careers.



Currently three Eliot’s are at Telstar. Besides Makenzie and her dad, her brother, Josh, is a long-term interim substitute in eighth grade Math.  Her mother, Tania, not at Telstar, is a family therapist.

As senior class co-president, National Honors Society president, and student council secretary, Eliot is busy, but mostly because of athletics. The three season athlete – soccer, basketball and softball – said,  “I’m always on the road. I’m always having practice after school …  But I couldn’t imagine life, let alone high school, without sports, it’s my outlet …

“Being part of a team, you have that built-in family, where you support each other and you are there for each other, in good times and in bad times. Not only the sports but the people that come with the sports … There are definitely a few people that have changed me for the better,” said Eliot.


She saw teachers Jen Christensen and Tera Ingraham, her senior advisors, every day. “It grew [into] a relationship [that is] stronger than just your normal English/math teachers,” said Eliot, who adds, “I could list off over a dozen teachers that I could go to if I was having a bad day or needed advice about something. They are open and willing to give their time and help you.”  she said of Telstar’s staff.

She said human sciences, biology and anatomy, are her favorites. She also plays the saxophone.


Of the eight top Telstar scholars, Eliot is one of only two summa cum laude students (grade point average of: 3.9-4.0) at Telstar. She said, “I put a lot of pressure on myself for those grades … it’s just my expectation for myself and reaching those goals.”


John Eliot said he has never missed one of his daughter’s many athletic matches. On long car rides to games and camps, they have shared each other’s music. He said she appreciates his heavy metal and alternative rock, while she turned him into an Ed Sheeran fan.

While sitting in her dad’s office for her interview, Eliot admits she is very comfortable in the Telstar office and catches herself when she walks in and is about to call out, “Dad.”

He has been part of many of her school memories. Once in eighth grade, her father jumped outside her classroom window holding a “happy birthday,” sign, she recalls with a smile. Another time her father had a 20-minute conversation with Oscar, the school fish, while she and her friends watched  through the window from the library.

“There have been a lot of moments when I’m like, ‘yup, that’s my dad’ …

“He’s probably my biggest inspiration in life,” said Eliot.

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