Portsmouth school plants tree for longtime teacher

Blake Roderiques and Andrew Federico shovel dirt into a hole for Hathaway School's new tree. Blake Roderiques and Andrew Federico shovel dirt into a hole for Hathaway School's new tree.

Addison Shaffley throws some dirt in the hole where Hathaway School planted a tree in honor of Arbor Day Friday.

Addison Shaffley throws some dirt in the hole where Hathaway School planted a tree in honor of Arbor Day Friday.

PORTSMOUTH — Superintendent of Schools Lynn Krizic said it was only fitting for Hathaway School to honor teacher Susan Marsden on the same day that students planted a new tree for Arbor Day. The tree, she said, symbolized all the growth that’s taken place in Ms. Marsden’s classroom over the years.

“It’s like 800 first-graders,” said daughter Erica Marsden, who was on hand to surprise her mom Friday afternoon along with Mrs. Marsden’s husband, Bob.

Ms. Marsden is retiring at the end of the school year after having served the district for 41 years. Thirty-nine of those years were spent in the same classroom — Room 5 at Hathaway. The other two were spent teaching kindergarten at Melville and Elmhurst schools.

“Everybody knows her. I don’t know if that’s good or bad,” joked Mr. Marsden.

School Committee Chairman David Croston was among the dignitaries on hand. Before leading the students in a “hip-hip-hooray” cheer for the teacher, he told them to get loud.

Susan Marsden (right), who's retiring after 41 years of teaching, was surprised at the Arbor Day ceremony by her husband Bob and daughter Erica.

Susan Marsden (right), who’s retiring after 41 years of teaching, was surprised at the Arbor Day ceremony by her husband Bob and daughter Erica.

“We have friends at Town Hall, so you’re going to have to do something you’re usually not allowed to do here,” he said.

Ms. Marsden, he said, is someone you’d call a true Rhode Islander.

“You went to school here and you taught here for 41 years,” Mr. Croston told her. Have you ever been over the Sakonnet Bridge?”

Town Council member David Gleason read an Arbor Day proclamation from the council, and several students sang songs and read statements about the importance of trees. Emily Kavanaugh wrote a poem which ended, “Why should you love trees?” They’re the friends of everything.”

Brittany Gomes, a second-grade student teacher, volunteered to organize the events after she heard National Grid wanted to donate a tree. She attended meetings of the town’s Tree Commission, which also helped out.

Ben Arsena reads an essay he wrote about the importance of trees.

Ben Arsena reads an essay he wrote about the importance of trees.

Brian Satterlee from National Grid told the students that donating trees to schools was one of his favorite parts of the job. Trees provide jobs, wildlife habitat, lumber for schools and hospitals and more, he reminded the students.

“I hope you’re feeling real proud of what you’re doing. You’re helping the environment,” he said.

After that, students took turns grabbing a shovel and throwing dirt in a whole. An engraved stone with Mrs. Marsden’s name was placed in the ground under the new tree.

Mrs. Marsden, who had no idea she was going to be honored at the event, was at a lost for words Friday. Room 5, she said, was her home.

“I couldn’t imagine being anywhere else.”

Hathaway Principal Suzanne Madden said Mrs. Marsden has never been one to seek the spotlight.

“She’s an unsung hero around here; that’s what everybody calls her,” she said.

Blake Roderiques and Andrew Federico shovel dirt into a hole for Hathaway School's new tree.

Blake Roderiques and Andrew Federico shovel dirt into a hole for Hathaway School’s new tree.

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