, Derry, New Hampshire

June 20, 2013

Back to the beginning

Graduating seniors revisit their elementary schools

By Julie Huss

---- — Londonderry seniors enjoy one last moment in elementary school.

LONDONDERRY — Thanks for the memories.

That was the collective thought traveling through the minds of Londonderry High School’s Class of 2013 as the soon-to-be graduates traveled back in time on commencement day to revisit their elementary school years.

It’s an annual tradition for high school seniors to visit their respective elementary schools for breakfast on graduation day.

It’s also a chance for teachers and staff members, even some who have retired, to catch up with their former students and wish them well.

Scrapbooks showing seniors in their early years graced cafeteria tables at Matthew Thornton, South and North elementary schools. Many teachers brought their own photos and memories to share with the students.

Sally Rewer retired last year after teaching fourth grade at Matthew Thornton for more than 30 years. She is a regular.

“I swore to myself to come back every year,” she said. “It’s a wonderful occasion. Some kids I haven’t seen since the fourth grade.”

The seniors were much taller, much smarter and ready to face the future, Rewer said. Some she knew right away, some she had to take a second glance at the name tag to be sure.

“But you know, you see it in their eyes and their faces,” she said.

The school district has hosted the senior breakfast for about 15 years. At Matthew Thornton, seniors streamed into the cafeteria and got many hugs along the way.

Retired third-grade teacher Diane Hoppe couldn’t wait to get there.

“I want to see all my kids,” she said. “I never forget my kids.”

Hoppe retired in 2011 and kept many mementos from her Matthew Thornton years to share at the breakfast.

Dave Ankiewcz, 19, enjoyed his bagel and eggs. He said being back at his elementary school was a bit surreal.

“Everything seems so small, it’s really weird,” he said.

Or it could be he just got much taller. Most students noticed the size of the chairs, the tables and how compact the spaces were now.

“It also smells the same, but it smells good,” Maureen Maney said.

Her friend Miranda Marchetti said there were a lot of memories flooding back as she faced graduation that night.

Pat Fitzgerald, 18, got a big hug from Matthew Thornton principal Carol Mack as he entered the cafeteria.

“I just want to cry,” he said. “It’s so amazing.”

Listening to what the seniors had to say is a big part of the morning, assistant teacher Katie Tobin said. Hearing their dreams, what they remember, and where they are headed is special.

“I love it, I love listening to them,” she said. “Coming back here, they all have their memories.”

Mack is preparing to make her own exit and will retire as Matthew Thornton’s principal at the end of this year. She said the seniors were all a class act.

“There are a lot of memories here,” she said.