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Easthampton High School teachers and staff prepare for move to new $39.2 million building next month

  • Carey Dunlap, a fourth grade teacher at Pepin School, is one of three Easthampton teachers selected for Excellence in Teaching Awards given by the Grinspoon Foundation. Administrators surprised Dunlap and the other winners with flowers last week.

    Carey Dunlap, a fourth grade teacher at Pepin School, is one of three Easthampton teachers selected for Excellence in Teaching Awards given by the Grinspoon Foundation. Administrators surprised Dunlap and the other winners with flowers last week. Purchase photo reprints »

  • Marsha Messer, a history teacher at White Brook Middle School, was one of three Easthampton teachers selected for a Grinspoon Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award this year. Administrators surprised Messer with the news and with flowers last  week.<br/>Photo courtesy of Easthampton schools

    Marsha Messer, a history teacher at White Brook Middle School, was one of three Easthampton teachers selected for a Grinspoon Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award this year. Administrators surprised Messer with the news and with flowers last week.
    Photo courtesy of Easthampton schools Purchase photo reprints »

  • Purchase photo reprints »

  • Carey Dunlap, a fourth grade teacher at Pepin School, is one of three Easthampton teachers selected for Excellence in Teaching Awards given by the Grinspoon Foundation. Administrators surprised Dunlap and the other winners with flowers last week.
  • Marsha Messer, a history teacher at White Brook Middle School, was one of three Easthampton teachers selected for a Grinspoon Foundation Excellence in Teaching Award this year. Administrators surprised Messer with the news and with flowers last  week.<br/>Photo courtesy of Easthampton schools

EASTHAMPTON — Administrators, teachers and students at Easthampton High School are busy preparing for the move to a new high school building next month.

With the $39.2 million structure on Williston Avenue now “substantially completed,” according to Building Committee Chair Michael Buehrle, plans are in the works for equipment training sessions for teachers, tours for students and an open house for the public in late April.

The move is slated to occur during spring break from April 15-22, administrators say. Teachers will have a professional development day on April 22, which they will use to settle into their classrooms. Students will return to from vacation to a brand new school April 23.

In an interview in his office at the 52-year-old high school, Principal Vito Perrone said he was “trying to keep the big picture in mind and not get bogged down in all the stuff we still have to do.”

Stickers on furniture and equipment surrounding him hinted at the complex logistics associated with the move. Green ones were for items headed for the new building, while yellow ones were for items that will be offered to other city schools and departments. (Perrone’s desk chair, for one, will not be going with him to the new high school).

Perrone said teachers and students are excited about the new high school’s full-sized auditorium, gym, library and robotics lab — among other features.

“It is amazing over there,” he said. “The sky’s the limit.”

The Class of 2013 will hold graduation ceremonies at the new building but diplomas will feature pictures of both structures until all students who attended the old high school have graduated, Perrone said.

Buehrle said the building project — the first new school constructed in three decades in Easthampton — remains on track in terms of schedule and budget. In 2010, voters approved an $18 million debt exclusion override to pay for the city’s portion of the new high school. The state is paying 64 percent of the total costs.

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EHS trio lauded

Three Easthampton teachers have been selected by the district for Pioneer Valley Excellence in Teaching Awards from the Harold Grinspoon Charitable Foundation.

This is the 10th year of the awards, which honor teachers and school staff for their impact on children. Winners receive $500, grants for graduate courses, membership to a local YMCA and tickets to an awards ceremony in April at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. Easthampton’s honorees were surprised with the news of their awards — and flowers — in their classrooms last week.

Here’s what the trio had to say about what makes a good teacher, why they were drawn to teaching and what the award means to them.

Rose Guerra, 30, of Holyoke, in her eighth year of teaching U.S. history at Easthampton High School: “Just being compassionate and being here on a daily basis is what makes a difference. The students need me to be there and be present for them. I’m a constant in the building.”

Carey Dunlap, 40, of Easthampton, a fourth grade teacher at Pepin School for a dozen years: “My mom always said I was going to be a teacher. I just love the kids so much. Every day is different and I’m always learning. For me, it’s all about the kids.”

Marsha Messer, 53, of Easthampton, a 14-year veteran of the city schools who teaches language and social studies to fifth and sixth graders at White Brook Middle School: “I told my students this award was proof that if you keep working hard and try your best, someday someone will notice you and your efforts will be recognized. Good things come from hard work. It was just another teachable moment in our classroom.”

•••

Teacher training lottery

White Brook Middle School has won the lottery — the one run by the Community Resources for People with Autism, that is.

The middle school was one of three area schools the Easthampton-based nonprofit selected to receive five complimentary guest passes to its 23rd annual conference April 11 at the Log Cabin in Holyoke. The others were Brookings Elementary School in Springfield and East Meadow School in Granby.

White Brook Principal Allison Rebello said winning the lottery means that instead of only one middle school staff member attending the conference, five can now take part, including administrators, special education teachers and a paraprofessional.

“This particular conference is always filled with information we need,” said Rebello, whose school has operated a program for students with autism for at least four years. “We’re super excited to have won.”

Last year’s conference drew 300 people, according to the Community Resources website. This year’s keynote speaker is Michelle Garcia Winner, an author and expert on teaching students with autism.

Barbara Solow can be reached at bsolow@gazettenet.com.

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