FARMINGTON — The rise of the instant electronic age, bringing video games, computers and e-books, may have changed the way many receive information or read for pleasure, but the core of her job always stayed the same for Betsy Turcotte.

“Kids love to be read to. They did 17 years ago and they do today,” she said.

W.G. Mallett School librarian Turcotte is retiring from the Mt. Blue Regional School District after 17 years. Staff at the pre-kindergarten through third-grade school surprised her with an open house honoring her service Thursday afternoon after school.

The New Vineyard resident said she taught elementary grades in upstate New York before taking the librarian position in Farmington.

Over the years, Turcotte became known for implementing annual reading events like the Iditaread, a play on words with the Iditarod dog sled race. Students “raced” to reach reading goals, which moved them along checkpoints on a map.

The day before the assembly, Turcotte was told about the open house by the school principal, Tracy Williams, who said that Turcotte started tearing up and tried to say it was too much for the school to do on her behalf.

“She said ‘Oh, I’m just a person doing my job’ and I said ‘No you’re not. You’re the heartbeat of our school,'” said Williams.

The principal noted that Turcotte is known for remembering what books the children like, for making reading exciting and for hosting annual reading events that the students look forward to.

Superintendent Tom Ward thanked Turcotte at the gathering and said that she was the type of staff member who isn’t replaced after retirement — faculty just pull together to fill in the gap the best they can.

“It’s hard to come up with words that are approprate for the best librarian in the world,” he said.

The younger students still attending Mallett gave Turcotte hugs throughout the open house, while their parents thanked Turcotte for teaching them a love of reading. The children eagerly pointed to pictures of themselves with her playing on a slideshow in the front of the room, and, with giggles and hand gestures, tried their hardest to put into words their favorite parts of going to the the library with Turcotte.

Sisters Azaela Shanti, 7, and Rowan Shanti, 6, shyly helped each other to explain. Azaela said she had been going to the library for two years, while Rowan said it was her first year attending the school library.

“We like reading.”

“We like when she reads to us.”

“We like the books!”

“I like reading.”

Some of the older students who came back to Mallett School to say goodbye to their first school librarian reflected back on Turcotte as helping them first learn to love books.

Ben Andrews, who will be a freshman at Mt. Blue High School in the fall, told Turcotte about different book series he had finished and new books he hoped to start.

Andrews said Turcotte made his first years of school fun, with events like an annual pirate-themed day, when the students dressed up like a pirates, had a hide-and-seek game to look for books and learned fiction and nonfiction pirate stories.

“He was one of my great readers,” she said.

He said, “She was one of my favorite teachers.”

Kaitlin Schroeder — 861-9252

[email protected]


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