If “nothin’ says lovin’ like somethin’ from the oven,” then Jeff Bell is truly a lucky man.

For the seventh year in a row, Bell, Windham High art teacher, got a special delivery of homemade birthday cookies from his mother, Shirley “Nana” Bell of Danvers, Massachusetts. Nana and her daughter, Kathy Gayron, also of Danvers, make the two-hour drive north to Windham High School on March 22 to arrive just before the lunch periods.

Bell, 49, resides in Hollis with Mary, his wife, and 13-year-old daughter Madeline, and has taught at the Windham school for 17 years. He appears to be a popular figure with the students, but is certainly everyone’s “best friend” when the birthday cookies arrive. The whole school population knows the cookies are coming and fellow teachers, students and staff keep an eye on the hallways for the first hint that the treats are in the building.

This is no small task for Nana Bell, who is almost 80. Bell starts her baking just after the holidays, and produces over 2,000 baked cookies in her home kitchen. The cookies are loaded into a dozen or so plastic containers and distributed around the entire school. Nana has a big hug for everyone while she makes her rounds, and many recognize her immediately from her previous trips with the goodies. No one asks who she is or why she is in the school.

This year the duo had help from “Ma Bell’s” granddaughter, and Jeff’s niece, Jennifer Rein. Rein expressed her feelings by saying, “It is always fun to see Uncle Jeff. He’s a blast and he is just the best. I love spending time with him.”

As soon as the cookies appeared at Bell’s classroom the students’ faces broke into smiles. There was no polite hesitation as the students crowded around the cookies and helped themselves to the treats.

“Wonderful! Excellent! Awesome,” proclaimed the art students.

Craig Ellice, a hungry looking junior, went straight to a dark creation and declared, “These chocolate cookies are the best.” It appeared the veteran cookie sampler had enjoyed these same morsels in previous celebrations for Bell.

Casey Wassick, the first to put a hand into the cookie pile, said, “These cookies are excellent. Mr. Bell is the man!”

Even teacher, Coleen Kearney-Graffam, whose art class was interrupted for the procession said, “I have been looking forward to this for weeks. “

Senior, Avery Shaughnessy, got a hug from Nana Bell and said of this year’s bounty, “The cookies are the best I have ever had, and I am a cookie monster. Every year they are the best. This year I have to describe them as milk-worthy.”

With four years of cookie treats on his resume, Shaughnessy answered the expected adult question about whether or not he had ruined his lunch, “Yeah, and probably dinner too! It is the same thing every year.”


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