JJIS students honor their local heroes

By Kevin Hotary - Staff Writer
Colchester - posted Tue., Oct. 25, 2011
Students clapped and cheered as their heroes walked through the 'Hallway of Heroes' the students had made. Photos by Kevin Hotary.
Students clapped and cheered as their heroes walked through the 'Hallway of Heroes' the students had made. Photos by Kevin Hotary.

You don’t have to wear a cape and have superpowers to be a hero.  In fact, to the students at Jack Jackter Intermediate School, heroes often wear a police officer’s, soldier’s or nurse’s uniform, or fight fires and help save lives in their town. And to others, their teachers are heroes.

Last Thursday, Oct. 20, JJIS students paid tribute to those they admire for their service to their community by inviting them to walk their “Hallway of Heroes,” followed by a special presentation of songs, poems and other student projects made in honor of their heroes.

The special day honoring local heroes was the brainchild of fifth grade teacher Jen Totten, originating with a slideshow on the events of Sept. 11, 2001, that she developed to inspire her students and initiate a discussion about heroes.

“I think they could feel the emotion in the pictures on the video,” said Totten, even though many of her students had not yet been born when those events took place in 2001. After discussing heroes, Totten found the idea for a Hallway of Heroes online. “It sounded like a powerful way to show our kids how many people help us out in our community,” she said.

Totten then developed a form that all students in the school took home to fill out about a person they consider to be a hero. Forms were also left at various places around town, including the senior center, VFW hall, fire houses and local and state police stations. The completed forms, with photos of the heroes, were then hung in the hallways throughout the school.

“Many of our local heroes are modest and don’t like to be in the spotlight,” said Totten, and yet several came to the school last Thursday to walk the Hallway of Heroes, as all of the students lined their path, carrying small flags and cheering for their community heroes as they walked past, led by students Tim, Evan, Madison and Nicholas.

“It’s one of our duties to help people,” said Evan, a member of the class senate following in the heroes’ footsteps.

After the walk, the heroes were honored by the students with a show, starting with members of Sharon Falcone’s fourth grade class singing a couple of patriotic songs. Then, individually or in groups, students presented their projects, which they developed on their own with Totten’s guidance.

“My heroes are my teachers,” began a poem by Matt, while other students honored their heroes with poems, stories, slideshows or musically, like Bridget and Abby, who played “My Country ‘tis of Thee” as a flute duet.

“I just hope you know how much we appreciate what you do for us,” said JJIS Principal Deborah Sandberg, after the presentations.

Totten said that she does not yet know if the “Hallway of Heroes” will be a yearly event, but “it’s certainly worth recognizing our hardworking volunteers and community members who do so much for us,” she said.

“The students were really proud to do this,” said Totten, who said the project served a valuable purpose, “to teach our students about honoring others, and recognizing others’ hard work."

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