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As one class presented service awards acknowledging the work and bravery of local police/fire officials, the warden service and local veterans, a surprise announcement turned the tables on who was honoring who. Willie Goodman, commander of VFW Post 10643 took the microphone and announced that the school’s own Carol Otley had been chosen to represent the Maine VFW as Teacher of the Year, 2016.
Loud, enthusiastic applause followed. Otley, whose fourth grade class had just recognized Goodman and fellow veteran Col. Bob Akins, was picked by a VFW state board after reviewing teacher semi-finalists from 10 other districts in Maine.
“Mrs. Otley (demonstrates) outstanding leadership and tireless effort in teaching and fostering citizenship and patriotism in our community,” wrote Manchester principal Danielle Donnini in her letter of nomination.
Commander Goodman had glowing remarks about Otley’s selection.
Her class consistently engages in “amazing moments of patriotism,” he said, such as having “veterans speaking to her classes about their experiences (one played Amazing Grace to the class for Veterans Day), visits to the state capital, and on this Community Day, class donations of birdhouses to raise money for veterans’ nursing homes.
“She continues to nurture a seed that will help our youth grow into productive, law abiding citizens with patriotism, respect and genuine pride for our nation,” said Goodman.
Otley will receive a cash prize and a plaque at a ceremony in June at the VFW state convention in Portland.
“I am humbled and honored. I look up to such great men and women. And I salute them,” said Otley after the Community Day announcement.
She will compete for the national VFW title in Kansas City this summer.
Other Community Day observances included cash donations to various non-profit organizations from classes that had conducted fundraising projects. One group built so-called “buddy benches” for use on the playground. Any student feeling lonely or having a tough day is encouraged to use the bench and converse with others who have a sympathetic ear.
High School principal Chris Howell was the keynote speaker for the occasion. Howell congratulated the students on their fundraising and projects and encouraged all to always look for opportunities to help others and to be kind.
“Always think before you speak,” he advised, and reinforced his remarks with a quote from President Woodrow Wilson: “I’ve never had to apologize for something I didn’t say.”