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Back to school: Sherman Elementary celebrates a century

Updated 8:01 am, Sunday, October 13, 2013

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  • At the 100th anniversary reception at Roger Sherman Elementary School on Friday night, hundreds of alums, former teachers and at least one former principal joined the celebration. Among those attending was the family of Walter Holt, who served as principal from 1963 to 1973. Pictured here, from left to right, are his daughter Sharon Cloutier of Trumbull, widow Ruby Holt of Fairfield and grandson Nicolas Cloutier of Bristol, as they look at a photo of Walter Holt on a display board. FAIRFIELD CITIZEN, CT 10/11/13 Photo: Meg Barone / Fairfield Citizen contributed
    At the 100th anniversary reception at Roger Sherman Elementary School on Friday night, hundreds of alums, former teachers and at least one former principal joined the celebration. Among those attending was the family of Walter Holt, who served as principal from 1963 to 1973. Pictured here, from left to right, are his daughter Sharon Cloutier of Trumbull, widow Ruby Holt of Fairfield and grandson Nicolas Cloutier of Bristol, as they look at a photo of Walter Holt on a display board. FAIRFIELD CITIZEN, CT 10/11/13 Photo: Meg Barone

 

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A letter written by a first grade Roger Sherman Elementary School student in January 1935 simply asked: "Dear Mother, Please come to see us Monday, January 13 at 3:00 p.m. Love, Thomas."

The invitation was to attend a parent-teacher meeting at the school, which was then at the corner of Post and Reef roads, where Sherman Green is today. The original school was built there in 1913, and the current school building on Fern Street was constructed 50 years ago.

Sherman School celebrated the 100th anniversary of the educational institution's existence and the 50th anniversary of its current home Friday, and the invitation extended to the community was answered by hundreds of former students, teachers and administrators as well as current students and parents who turned out for an open house.

"What a wonderful history we have. Children love this school and they continue to love this school (after they leave). It has a heart," said Sherman Principal Eileen Roxbee. "It's indicative of this neighborhood. We have teachers who graduated from this school. We have parents who went here, and grandparents," she said. Friday's turnout validates the strong sentiment for the school that survives across decades and generations, Roxbee said.

Yvonne Bastien Zeisler, a 1973 graduate, returned with her siblings Bruce Bastien (Class of 1972) and Lisette Bastien Enhoffer, who graduated from the school in 1980. All three still live in Fairfield.

"Most of the school looks the same. I was surprised to see how intact it still is," said Zeisler, who reconnected with her 2nd and 5th grade teachers, Alice Hine and Ted Ostrowski, both of whom still teach at the school.

"When she was my teacher she wore miniskirts," Zeisler said of Hine. She recalled her principal, the late Walter Holt, as "so kind and a great, nice man."

Three members of Holt's family attended the Open House: his widow Ruby Holt of Fairfield, daughter Sharon Cloutier of Trumbull and grandson Nicolas Cloutier of Bristol. They pored over photographs, news clippings and yearbooks from his decade as principal from 1963 to 1973.

"I'm learning about his past and the unique educator he was. To learn about all the things that he did before he was my grandfather is really special," Nicolas Cloutier said.

Fifth-grade string musicians performed in the cafeteria. Some students offered facts about the school.

Visitors enjoyed seeing student artwork and photographs on display boards representing each decade of the school's history set up in the gym. Mike Giarratano, who was principal at Sherman from 1995 to 2006, said the displays were "like a history lesson."

The school's namesake, Roger Minott Sherman, was discussed at the event. Minott Sherman, a town resident, was the nephew of Roger Sherman, a signer of the Declaration of Independence and Constitution. Roxbee said Kim Fawcett, one of three of the town's legislative representatives, who attended the celebration and presented a proclamation, told her Roger Minott Sherman will be inducted into Connecticut's Hall of Fame this year.

Alums scoured the displays to find themselves in class photos. They swapped stories and reminisced about classmates and teachers.

"It's nice to come back. It brings back a lot of good memories ... Sherman Sharks forever," said Kelly Wallace of Fairfield, who attended the event with Gabriella Forrest of Middletown. Both graduated in 2002.

Forrest called it "Super nostalgic and comforting." She said students that graduated with them continue to identify with Sherman School. "It's a testament to what a strong community it is," Forrest said.

"It's a very special place. It makes us want to stay here in Fairfield so our daughter (Jane, age 3) can go here," said Kristen Sarty, whose son Jack, 7, is a Sherman second-grader.

Chad Hunter of Fairfield, who graduated in 1991, said learning was fun at Sherman. "It didn't feel like a chore. It was just a very positive experience. I owe a lot to Sherman for my success. I'm happy where I am and Sherman helped me get there," Hunter said.

Ann Micklos, a NASA engineer and 1977 graduate of Sherman School, was unable to attend the Friday open house, but visited the school the week before. She also said the teachers there helped shape her.

"When you look back at the foundation of the school it was instrumental in making me who I am today. The school and my mom (Sue Noyes) never discouraged me from doing what I wanted," said Micklos, who was the first girl to join Ostrowski's rocketry club at Sherman. She worked on 110 of the 135 Space Shuttle missions and is currently working on a launch services program.

The advanced technology that Micklos works with now may be routine for the Sherman School students of 2063. Current student Oliver Kwon predicts that by then classrooms will not have chalk or white boards. Instead, he said, every student will have a touch screen desk.