Our town has had a teacher since its very beginning when Mary Chute, the wife of New Marblehead’s first settler, taught lessons from her homestead. She later moved her classroom into her quarters in the old Province Fort where she taught until 1774 when Samuel Webb became schoolmaster and held classes in one the fort’s flankers.

Lord Courtesy Windham Historical Society

When the wars with the Native Americans ended and the town was in a period of peace, a schoolhouse was built across the road from the fort and Benjamin Moody took over the helm. After several years, he was replaced a red-headed Irishman named John Patterson, who was followed by Master Timothy Kennard, referred to by his students as a “teacher par excellence.” He died in 1819.

In the 1930s at the Knight School on Pope Road, Miss Helen Allen was the teacher. She single-handedly taught eight grades in the small one-room building and, according to one of her students, Ken Cole, she “provided a good learning foundation for life.”

Another well-loved teacher at the time was Miss Bernice Lord (Timmons), who taught at the Windham Hill School in the triangle at Pope and Ward roads. According to her son, Roger Timmons, “She did everything from starting the fire to bringing in wood to cleaning up the building.” When her daughter Elizabeth was a candidate for Town Council, an elderly woman told her, “I had your mother for a teacher and I remember what a good person she was. I’m voting for you because you are her daughter.”

A long-time fixture at Arlington School was primary school teacher Lillian S. Hawkes. Born in 1877, she began her teaching career at the Windham Plains School. Her years at Arlington began in 1905 where she was remembered as the quintessential schoolmarm, “tall, thin, with a long nose and perfect teeth, her brown hair was always shiny,” a former student recalled.

Hawkes Courtesy Windham Historical Society

Every year on the Friday before Memorial Day, Miss Hawkes would take her class across the street to the cemetery where her students would place a flag on a soldier’s grave. In the town’s 1976 Bicentennial Program, one of her former students commented, “I do wish today’s children could know the strong patriotism and reverence we got from that experience. Miss Hawkes had a very great influence on our lives.” The two-room Arlington School where she taught closed in 1932 and a new school was built in its place. In June 1937, Miss Hawkes retired. She passed away in 1947.

There are many wonderful teachers in the Windham schools today. As a matter of fact, when I asked a seventh grade student to name his favorite teacher, his response was, “That’s the hardest question anyone could ever ask me because all my teachers have been the best.”

As your children return to school, remind them of the important job that teachers do and ask them to show respect and appreciation to those who dedicate themselves to this worthy profession. Teachers make an incredible difference in many lives. I’ll never forget my sophomore English teacher at Edison High School in Edison, New Jersey, Miss Beverly Cohen. She taught me how to write effectively and creatively. I’m still using the skills she taught me to this very day.,

Haley Pal, a resident of Gorham, is an active member of the Windham Historical Society.

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