TOWNSEND -- For several members of Hawthorne Brook staff, school is out, for good.
Teachers Tom Benarock, Pat Hanno and Jan Tarrant and paraprofessional Mary Leblanc retired at the end of the school year. In each case, the four colleagues had fond memories of HBMS and leaving was bittersweet.
Benarock graduated from college with an English degree, but went into the business world.
"I did a lot of writing in my business career," he said. "It helped with advancement in my career."
While Benarock enjoyed his career in business, he said, he kept coming across a common theme.
"Many of the college graduates I worked with could not write," he said. "This was one of the influences ... why I became an English teacher.
"I have absolutely no regrets about changing careers," he said. "There were day-to-day frustrations, but on the whole, it was an excellent experience."
He said that Hawthorne Brook, and the district as a whole, are "a great group of people to work with and work for. I enjoyed teaching here at HBMS for 14 years."
He added, " I'm coming back next year to substitute teach ... it won't be my own classroom and not full-time."
"I am going to move to the Cape within the year," said Benarock. "My family and I have been going to the Cape every summer."
"I am going to travel," he said. "...I will travel far and wide for good food. In fact, we did two English writing projects that were based on food," Benarock said, laughing. "It sometimes is difficult to make dry material exciting, and this was one way of accomplishing that."
Pat Hanno is a 36-year veteran teacher, having taught at HBMS for 28 of those years.
"I have three wonderful grown children, my beautiful wife of 33 years," he said. "My children are very happy for me. They said, Dad, you deserve it for all your years of dedication to this noble profession."
"I had wonderful teachers who inspired me, especially my science teachers," said Hanno. "So that is the direction that I took. My favorite quote is, 'The mind is like a parachute, it only works when it's open," by Sir James Dewar. Words, I hope, my students will live by."
Hanno noted, "I've loved every year that I have taught, there's not a year I look on with any regrets. I feel blessed to have worked with an incredible, dedicated, supportive faculty. They have been supportive both in school and out of school." He said that his wife was very ill at one point. "They came with prepared meals and more ... they were supportive to my family during such an emotional time.
"It is bittersweet that I am leaving," said Hanno. "I'll miss everything about happy Hawthorne. I wish them all well. It has been a pleasure working here for Mr. Coughlin and Mrs. Shepherd-Gay, the best administration..."
"My plans are to explore new waterways to kayak on, ride bike trails I've never been down, improve my golf game and travel at times other than February and April vacations," said Hanno. His final words to both students and staff, "be happy."
This was Jan Tarrant's third year at HBMS as a special-education teacher. She has taught in the North Middlesex school district for a total of 26 years, with two years in Ashby.
"It's both happy and sad at the same time," she said of retirement. "This is one of the best schools I have ever worked in. It is the best school administration. It has been great working with everyone here. I will miss everyone," she said, her eyes slightly misty.
"I have liked it here in this school district, but now North Carolina is where I need to be," she said. "My son lives out in North Carolina with his two children. I am going to move out there to spend time with my two grandchildren. They need me. I do not get to see them much each year. So I have my house up for sale, and plan on moving down there as soon as I can."
Mary Leblanc has been at HBMS for the past 20 years as a special-education paraprofessional.
"I have been in school for 35 years, just different positions," she said. "I was a substitute teacher in Peabody and Leominster for a few years. I was a full-time English teacher for 12 years, but Proposition 2 1/2 ended it. Then I stayed home with my young children. So later on I switched careers and became a paraprofessional.
"It's kind of like a teacher, but not quite," she said. "I didn't have all the paperwork. I have been president of the Paraprofessional Union for six years and I have worked with special-education teacher Laurie LaPerriere for 16 years at HBMS. At the retirement party, she told funny stories about me," laughed LeBlanc. "I really enjoyed working with her. It's been a privilege and a pleasure.
"Now it is time for me to travel, do some reading, gardening, relaxing," she said, " and not have to set the alarm every night. My husband has already retired, and has been looking forward to me retiring as well."
So at the end of the school year, on the last day, when the faculty was waving farewell to departing students, it was also time to wave farewell to four fellow staff members. Each came from a different background, had different experiences, but all shared a common bond, a love of learning and teaching and helping students.