By Vannessa Stevens
When Thalberg Elementary school teacher Linda Bass-Reilly was presented with Southington’s Teacher of the Year award she was all at once humbled, honored and a little overwhelmed.
“I was shaking and everything went in slow motion for a moment,” she said.
A teacher for 30 years, Linda Bass-Reilly knows deep down what she loves most about her job.
“It sounds simple, but I just love the children,” she said. “I love watching my students grow emotionally and mentally each year.”
She says all children are gifted in different ways and embraces this. Two of her students wrote and produced a play this past school year and assigned parts for every class member.
Thalberg intern Tony Arru, who will be working as Linda’s intern next spring, considers her a teaching master.
“She never raises her voice, is always calm and holds an all-inclusive atmosphere in her classroom,” Arru said.
Bass-Reilly is very involved with the Southington Community Center, the Miss Southington Ambassador Program, the Orchard Valley Garden Club and the Northeast Organic Farming Association. Her love of gardening led her to envision an outdoor classroom where Thalberg’s students can learn to respect and appreciate nature, and learn about recycling, composting and gardening 101.
Students love the wheelchair accessible garden, from the students at Oak Hill, a school located inside Thalberg for students with mental and physical challenges, to monthly visitors from Orchard Valley Garden Club who bring a lesson and supplies for students.
Taking care of the garden is a school wide activity. Thalberg kindergarteners learn about butterflies in the garden, first, second and third graders planted a vegetable garden and fourth and fifth graders are invited to care for the garden as an alternate recess activity.
Students receive hands on learning, studying about seeds then planting them to watch and record their growth year round.
Combining old school teaching style with modern day technology, Bass-Reilly secured a grant for three iPads which are used to research when to plant certain flowers and download bird call apps to easily identify the garden’s birds.
Bass-Reilly’s students compiled their annual research and produce a 30 page e-book, “Our School Garden,” which is available online.
“Linda loves to interact with her students on all levels,” said Dawn Brown, a paraprofessional at Thalberg. “She nurtures the students as much as she nurtures her garden.”