Nashoba Publishing/Sandra LordJanet Pothier
Nashoba Publishing/Sandra Lord Janet Pothier

TOWNSEND -- Townsend schoolchildren are beginning to think about going back to school. Backpacks, school supplies and new clothes are on the shopping list as parents prepare for another school year.

But on the last day of school last June, Janet Pothier stood in an empty classroom on the final day of her teaching career. "Everything has been packed away," she sighed.

"It's bittersweet," she said, blinking away tears.

"I am truly amazed at the number of presents and flowers I have received. I have loved every minute of teaching. But now I am excited about what lies ahead."

"I have my first grandson, William. Krissy and Steve (Harrington, daughter and son-in-law) live right here in Townsend. My daughter is going back to school, teaching. I'm going to take care of my grandson," Pothier said. "My parents live in Fitchburg. I'm going to be able to spend more time with them, as well.

"It's hard to leave," she said. "I have had the children of the children I taught years ago.

"I have been teaching English for 28 years," she said. "First, the school district offered me a job at Varnum Brook and Hawthorne Brook. I turned Jim McCormick (then principal) down, the job at Hawthorne Brook, and went to Varnum Brook for three years. Jim had told me that at any time, to call him, any time I wanted to teach at Hawthorne Brook instead. And I did just that," she laughed.

"My husband (William Pothier) and I taught together at the same school for 15 years, before he went on to the high school to teach. Here at Hawthorne Brook, his classroom was right down the hall from me. And our daughter went through Hawthorne Brook as a student. It was really great, all of it.

"We supported each other, commiserated with each other," she said. "We were both teachers; we knew the kinds of things that we went through in our jobs. We've been married 35 years. We are very close. It was fantastic."

Pothier said she has "absolutely" loved teaching and working with children. "They are so eager to learn, so much potential, so much going on in their lives," she said.

That morning, a parent had shared what her two children thought about Mrs. Pothier -- that she was extremely caring, compassionate ... firm but fair...."

"I always reach kids where they are, see where each individual student is, and meet those needs. I am honored to have had that privilege. It's been a pleasure to teach."

She added, "It's an incredible responsibility we (teachers) have, and I take that very seriously. I loved working with all of the staff and faculty. I'm going to miss that."

When asked about plans for teaching in the future, she shook her head. "I plan on volunteering at schools someday, when my grandson is in school. I want to explore the world with my grandchild ... I absolutely love teaching, but am excited to begin the next chapter of my life."

"I love the fact that I live in the same town that I have been teaching in," said Pothier. "We moved to Townsend 30 years ago. I'm originally from Leominster. We loved this town so much, we decided to move here. Now, I'm going to be a full-time grammy. It's time for family and friends. I'm going to read those books that have been sitting in my bookshelves for years. I'm going to enjoy living life.

"We have a tradition of waving good-bye to the kids," she said. "Every year, on the last day of school, that's what we do."

Facing that prospect that day, she said, "I've told everyone that I am not coming back into the school. I'm going directly to the car from here, then go home. If I don't do it like that, I'll be a puddle."