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Molding the future: Theresa Copp, Paris Elementary School
PARIS – Theresa Copp is a first grade teacher at the Paris Elementary School and has been teaching in the SAD 17 school district since 1980.
Copp grew up in Brunswick.
“I had a great childhood,” she said. “I was the middle child of seven, with five brothers and one sister. My father owned a freight trucking company that his father started called Thibeault Express and raised chickens on the side for the Lipman Poultry Company. My mother was a stay-at-home mom; you had to be with seven kids!”
“I remember that the most about my childhood; that my mother was always there when we got home from school,” she added.
There was always someone around to play with.
“And we were outside from morning till dusk,” she said. “We never were at a loss of things to do. I loved spending time outside in the summer reading, building forts, having friends over, bike riding through the Bowdoin College campus, swimming and playing team sports. Athletics was a big part of our lives.”
Copp had a large family, both on her mom and dad’s side.
“We had lots of family gathering with lots of noise, chaos and great fun! My dad’s family had a camp on Moxie Lake and we would go there a few times a year and have many fond memories of those times.”
This first grade teacher knew she wanted to teach from the time she was a junior in high school.
“I wanted to teach in Special Ed,” she said. “And I was intrigued by the dual major offered at the University of Farmington.”
Copp went to UMF and got a BS in education with a dual major; Special Ed as a speech and language clinician K-12, and elementary education K-8.
“In 1979 I started my career as a speech clinician in the Union that is made up of Nobleboro, Damariscotta, Bristol, South Bristol and Breman on the coast.”
Copp came to SAD 17 in 1980 as a speech therapist, traveling between eight schools.
“Then about six years later, an opportunity came up for me and another teacher to start a transitional grade one class at the Mildred Fox School, which was one of the schools I traveled to. I taught there for another few years and then transferred to regular grade one where I still am today; five years ago, the Mildred Fox and Madison Avenue Schools merged into the new Paris Elementary School.”
Her first day of teaching was 32 years ago.
“I’m sure I was scared to death since I was fresh out of college, driving from Brunswick to the Damariscotta area every day and traveling to four schools getting to know all the staff and students with a caseload of 40-plus students as a speech/language clinician."
“Wow,” she added. “That still scares me!”
According to Copp, the best part of teaching is getting to know the students.
“It’s the personal connection you make with them every day,” she explained. “And being with children keeps me feeling young and energized.”
The first and last day of school can be pretty scary, even for a teacher.
The first day is nerve-wracking and stressful and exciting all in one!” she laughed. “And I don’t sleep the night before; every new year is like the first day of school, just a new one. The last day is nerve-wracking, stressful, exciting and sad, since my time with that group of students has come to an end.”
“We’ve spent 175 days together,” she added. “That time is spent like a family.”
Copp said at this age, the students are so honest.
“They say exactly what’s on their minds,” she smiled. “They love you unconditionally. You are the most beautiful creature on the face of the earth according to them and they notice anything new about you. You’re always their most favorite teacher they’ve ever had ... until next year.”
“And very helpful,” she laughed. “When I was nine months pregnant with my son, I was sitting on the carpet with a group of kindergarten students doing a language lesson. When it was time to go, I was having a little difficulty getting up off the floor. One of the students, who was as wide as he was tall with bright, red hair stood over me with his hands on his hips and said, ‘I know exactly how you feel Mrs. Copp; like a turtle flipped over onto its back, huh?’ Then he proceeded to gently help me up.”
Her favorite part of the day is when the students arrive.
“I greet them and they are excited to start a new day with me and their classmates. I get to chat and check in with them and hopefully set a positive tone for the rest of our busy day. We start the day with a quick morning meeting, a song, greeting each other, a message and our schedule for the day.”
During the summer months, Copp prepares for the upcoming school year.
“Most people think that teachers check out in June and back in late August, but that is not the case. There’s a lot of work that goes on in schools in the summer. I take classes and workshops, teach summer school for Right Start, meet with other teachers, and prep for the next year’s class.”
“I also like to read, go biking, go to the beach and catch up on house projects,” she added.
Other things that keep her busy are a husband and two grown sons.
“I met Roc in college and we’ve been married for 31 years,” she said. “And we have made a wonderful life together since then. Garett is 28 and lives in Colorado and Halsey is 24 and recently graduated from the University of New Hampshire.”
According to Copp, she wouldn’t change a thing in her life. She said that the rewards are a great incentive to being a good teacher.
“The looks on their faces and the expression in their voices when they realize they get something; and I’m a part of that!”
Copp and her husband reside in Poland.