Madelyn Wendling, left, Hannah Robbins, Hannah Perault and Madison Noyes sign their letters on Thursday afternoon.
DALTON, Mass. — For young Hannah Perault, unexpected days off helped her start on a career path.
"Ever since I was in elementary school, the teachers I had had a great influence on me," the Wahconah Regional High School senior said on Thursday afternoon. "They were always so positive and energetic, and I always wanted to be like them.
"I remember vividly on snow days staying home with my brother and sister and playing school. And I would be the teacher because that was my favorite thing to do."
In the fall, Perault plans to pursue that dream as an elementary education major at North Adams' Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts.
On Thursday, she was joined by six of her Wahconah classmates who chose to participate in the commonwealth's Future Teacher Signing Day event.
The occasion, designed to mimic the rite of passage often given to high school athletes signing letters of intent to play intercollegiate athletics at their chosen school, celebrated a more informal but still passionate pledge to use the "next level" to get back to elementary, middle and secondary schools that produced the soon-to-be grads.
Wahconah's signing day, held during national Teacher Appreciation Week, was attended by family members of the seven students involved as well as state Rep. Paul Mark, D-Peru, and A.J. Enchill, a representative from the office of state Sen. Adam Hinds, D-Pittsfield.
"Thank you Principal [Aaron] Robb and thank you, Superintendent [Laurie] Casna for having us here," Mark said. "And thank you for thinking of this idea. What a great way to celebrate people who are going to go into such an important and impactful profession.
"We spend a lot of time congratulating student-athletes on their accomplishments and recognizing signings and that kind of thing. So to have this idea to recognize a profession that has an impact on every single one of us -- on our families, on ourselves at some point and on our children. You're going to help shape the future, whether you end up back here at Wahconah, locally, or somewhere else."
Enchill expressed Hinds' regrets that he had to be in Boston for a session of the state Senate and could not attend the ceremony in Wahconah's library.
"Thank you all for your commitment to education," Enchill said, before presenting the students with citations from the Legislature. "[Education] really is the backbone of all of our communities. And so you're an inspiration to me, you're an inspiration to the senator."
The students on the dais Thursday included students looking to pursue careers in fields ranging from special education to music education to high school chemistry. They're heading off to colleges that included Westfield State, University of Massachusetts at Amherst and MCLA.
Sydney Andrews, Grace Moriarty, Holden Nelson, Madison Noyes, Hannah Roberts and Madelyn Wendling joined Perault in signing the letter.
Robb gave a little background on each of the signers and joined Casna in sharing thoughts about their soon-to-be colleagues in education.
"As many of you know, the role of educator, in some ways, as really become that of a shape-shifter," Robb said. "You need to bend and twist to accommodate the ever-growing needs of your students, as well as to live up to the varying initiatives that exist at the federal, district and state level.
"But more importantly, to be a teacher means you have the opportunity to impact the lives of children for many years to come. It's hard but rewarding work."
Casna echoed that sentiment, sharing with those in attendance some thoughts on the profession that she heard from teachers in the field.
"The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters," Casna said. "The hardest thing is that it matters every day. So keep that in mind. People may tell you that there are not many more demanding professions. They're also not many more rewarding professions.
"Teachers have an effect for eternity. There is not telling where their influence ends."
Robb touched on that sentiment in the remarks he read about Nelson, a Dalton resident who is attending Westfield State University in the fall.
"One of Holden's hopes is to pass his passion for chemistry on to the next generation and perhaps inspire someone to study the su bject beyond what he can ever teach them," Robb said.
Robb said that he knows of at least four or five more Wahconah seniors who are planning to go into education as a profession but did not choose to participate in Thursday's event. Casna indicated that number should come as no surprise.
"When I heard about [the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's Signing Day program], I did think to myself, ‘This is so Wahconah,' " Casna said. "This is perfect for us. We are fortunate that we have one of the highest percentages of alumni who actually do come back and rejoin the staff, whether they work in one of the elementary schools or the middle school or the high school, or even in different positions that support the school system.
"That is something we're very fortunate for. Without that, we would not have the famous Mr. Robb himself. I see Miss [Kerry] Mason here. I see Mr. [Jared] Shannon here. Several people who were sitting in your seats and are now teachers in our school system.
"That is something that is such a great fit for us. So wherever you choose to educate, I'm sure you'll be highly successful, but the door here is always open to you as well."
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PITTSFIELD, Mass. — COVID-19 cases in Pittsfield are trending downward to rates that have not been seen since the middle of March.
Mayor Linda Tyer said during her regular update Friday on Pittsfield Community Television that the city's positivity rate has dropped to 0.44 percent in the past 14 days.
"This is certainly excellent news, and it reflects our effort in keeping each other safe," Tyer said. "Although we think we may have conquered COVID, we know better. We cannot let our guard down and reverse course."
In Tyer's last address earlier this month, she said rates were increasing toward levels seen in early August.
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The presentation was made by Art McConnell, former governor and club member of the Lions Club District 33Y in Dalton to Jack Henault, director of supply chain and clinical engineering at Berkshire Medical Center.
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