From Student to Teacher: Why Three SHS Grads Returned to Teach Here

Kadence Green, Staff Writer

Stamford High school in itself is a very unique school, but one of the things that makes it so neat is the number of teachers that are currently working at SHS who went to Stamford High as students. There are at least eleven teachers at Stamford High that went to the high school as students. I recently chose a few teachers to interview and asked them a few questions about their experiences and what brought them back to Stamford High as teachers (or as part of the administration). 

The first teacher that I interviewed was English Teacher Marie DeAngelis, whose last name was Casole when she graduated in 1999. She expressed what a great experience that she had here at Stamford High, saying, “my high school years were very memorable. I loved being a Black Knight!  I enjoyed football games on Friday nights, the relationships I built with teachers, and quite simply, being in the halls of SHS.  I loved going to school each day.” She was very enthusiastic about her experience at Stamford high school as a student!

Marie Casole (now Marie DeAngelis) in her 1999 senior portrait. (Kadence Green)

Ever since DeAngelis attended Stamford High, she knew she wanted to become a teacher. She said, “I always knew I wanted to be a teacher. I thought I might teach at the elementary level, but I’m so glad I chose teaching high school students.  You guys are fun to talk to and fun to teach”. DeAngelis never really planned on becoming a teacher at the high school she attended, but always knew she was going to be a teacher from the start. One of her favorite memories here at Stamford High was the fashion show her senior year, which is actually something that still takes place at Stamford High each year. She explained how it marked the end of her time in high school, and she had a great time at the show. 

Since DeAngelis has experienced being both a teacher and a student she also discussed how her perspective of the school has changed now, being a teacher. “I wish I would have been the student I want my students to be,” she said. “I must admit that I was a slacker!  I got good grades, but if I pushed myself, I would have had more collegiate opportunities.  Do your homework and strive for excellence!” DeAngelis said that since becoming a teacher she has realized that her teachers just wanted the best for their students.

The next teacher that I interviewed was English Teacher, Beth Gillin. Gillin is the head of the English department and went to school at Stamford High as well; she graduated as Beth Hatterman in 1991. Gillin was a very involved student at the high school; she was involved in sports and other activities that helped her make long lasting friendships and made her overall experience at SHS great. But Gillin was set on a very different path then teaching when leaving high school. 

Beth Hatterman (now Beth Gillin) in her 1991 senior portrait. (Kadence Green)

“I never imagined becoming a teacher,” Gillin said. “I was very focused on becoming a lawyer at the time. I didn’t think about becoming a teacher until after my four years at UConn Storrs when I graduated with an English degree.” Gillin was set on becoming a lawyer, but after graduating with a degree in English, found herself back teaching at her high school. Gillin’s favorite memory from Stamford High was her graduation in Boyle Stadium, and now as a teacher she is able to see all her students do the same. “As a teacher I was able to experience the procession down the field, which always brought me back to my graduation day in June 1991,” Gillin said.  

She also explained how her perspective has changed now that she is a teacher. “In many ways, SHS seems the same,” she said. “It is a large, diverse community of students and adults who experience successes and challenges and who go through major life events together.” However, she added that the size of the school is one noticeable difference.When Gillin went to school at SHS, there was no “new building,” so only floors 1-6 existed. 

Gillin enjoyed her time at SHS as a student just as much as she does now as a teacher. “I loved my time as a student because I got to experience so many new things with people who had a tremendous amount of school spirit and enthusiasm, but I also love my time now as a teacher because I get to watch my students learn and grow and go on to do great things in life,” she said. 

The last person that I interviewed was one of Stamford High’s vice principals, Matthew Forker, who also went to SHS as a student and graduated in 1992. Just like Deangelis and Gillin, Forker really enjoyed his time at SHS as a student. 

“I enjoyed SHS,” Forker said.  Although he moved to Stamford from Long Island in the 5th grade, he said, “I found SHS to be a great place where I made some lifelong friends, many of whom have kids that currently attend SHS and many that now teach at SHS as well.” Forker also said he did not see himself as a teacher when attending Stamford High. “I really didn’t, to be honest,” Forker said. “It wasn’t until I completed college that I thought about becoming a teacher.  I was a history major at Seton Hall and had a few ideas about potential careers, but ultimately I found a teacher training program at the University of New Haven where I could obtain a free masters while working as a school intern.  So I signed up and worked at Westhill during my internship!  I then came to SHS in 1999 and have been here ever since.”  Before becoming an administrator, Forker taught history and coached for 13 years.

Matthew Forker in his 1991 junior year photo. (Kadence Green)

Now that Forker has been at the school for so many years, he said his perspective has changed drastically. Now as a part of the administration he can take advantage of his prior years as a student at the school and put it into the perspective of the student currently at Stamford High School. Forker said he has learned patience over the years in working with students. “[We] really try to make sure that we do right by the students here, no matter what the circumstance is.  You are only here for four years, so it’s the job of teachers and administrators to serve the students that attend,” he said. Now that Forker has experienced all sides of being not only a student and a teacher at Stamford High, but also a part of the administration team,  he says he has come to realize what is most important are the students, and making their years at SHS the best and most memorable years possible.

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