After 'hardest year,' School Committee recognizes Thompson teacher

Sarah Marie Jette
Sarah Marie Jette: “The nominations came from two different families, which meant a lot.”

UPDATED, Oct. 15: The School Committee has recognized Thompson teacher Sarah Marie Jette, named a semifinalist for state Teacher of the Year.

"I want to take a minute to applaud" the third-generation educator, Superintendent Elizabeth Homan, who herself is a third-generation educator, told the committee Thursday, Oct. 14.

Mrs. Jette said that, while she obviously was not happy that the pandemic occurred, she improved her professional abilities by successfully dealing with that challenge. "I learned so much. I grew so much," she told the seven committee members.

In interacting with her third-grade students, she listened intently to them. "Every question mattered. Every question mattered. It was such community," she said.

She noted that for pupils aged only 8 years old, the Covid-19 crisis has been a huge event in their childhoods. "A quarter of their lives have been lived in a global pandemic," she noted.

Her participation via Zoom webinar -- School Committee has been meeting in that mode since March 2020 and may possibly continue doing so through March 2022 -- was welcomed. "Arlington is very fortunate to have teachers such as you," said Committee Chairman Bill Hayner.


She learned from the state about the honor in April, but her excitement remains fresh.

Asked Oct. 12 how she felt at the time, she wrote: “I was very excited! I never imagined I would be nominated for Teacher of the Year, let alone be a semifinalist.”

Patch: Thompson tops high-ranking K-8 town schools

The word came April 7 from Claire Smithney, an educator-effectiveness coordinator at the state Department of Education, after a challenging pandemic year teaching at Arlington's Remote Academy.

“It was the hardest year of teaching I had ever had. I worked until late each night and most weekends,” she wrote. “The nominations came from two different families, which meant a lot.”

What had that year of isolation been like teaching as Covid-19 spread?

“Last year, my focus was to make sure each of my 25 students felt loved, safe and supported. The world was a scary place with so much uncertainty.

“I had to be creative as I adapted my lessons for Zoom, I also worked to create a strong classroom community. I made plans for a week at a time, but really taught lesson by lesson, making changes day by day.”

'Up late preparing'

The 42-year-old first heard that she had been nominated in an email at 11 one night last January, “when I was up late preparing for parent conferences and the next day's lessons.

“I cried when I read the letter the family sent to the Department of Education. The second nomination came in early March. When I spoke with that family, their appreciation for the work I was doing warmed my heart and fueled me further.”

Mrs. Jette is in her 14th year teaching at Thompson. She had taught fifth grade her first year and then fourth grade from the next 12 years.

“This year, I moved down to third grade. Last year was an incredible challenge, but I learned so much. I want to keep challenging myself, to keep growing, which is one of the reasons why I moved to third.”

Enjoys Thompson community

Asked why she enjoys teaching at Thompson, she wrote that “the community . . . is what I enjoy the most. I love the diversity of the students in my class.”

In addition to 14 years teaching in Arlington, she also taught two years in Mongolia with the Peace Corps.

Mrs. Jette received her undergraduate degree from Mount Holyoke College. She has a master's degree in rehabilitation counseling from Sargent College at Boston University and a master's in education from Umass./Boston. She is enrolled in a social-justice education graduate-certificate program at Umass./Amherst.

She grew up in Lewiston, Maine, and education helped define her family: Both parents were public school teachers -- her father taught eighth-grade math for 33 years; her mom taught first grade for 32 years. Her grandfather was a history teacher, principal and a member of the local school board.

She is a mother of three children and four cats.

For more about her, including her book, click here >> Her novel was published in May 2018 and explores science, imagination, disability and Mexican-American culture. In 2019, it won a Lupine Honor Award, given by the Maine Library Association. Read a review here >> 

Her native Maine has another connection to Thompson. The school is named for Francis E. Thompson, whose father invented the soft drink Moxie and who was born in Unity, Maine.

Sept. 14, 2021: Nanci Ortwein, longtime AHS Spanish teacher, dies 


This news summary was published Wednesday, Oct. 13, 2021, and updated, to add links to a Patch report and to her website, and on Oct. 15, to add School Committee reaction, reported by Judith Pfeffer, and more about her book.

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