A month or so ago, Armstrong first grade teacher Jill Guimond asked if I’d come in to “fly” each of the five first grade classes to countries they’ve been studying this fall. Sure. Armstrong's "Flight Day" is always fun. The school turns the back lobby into an airline cabin. The kids come “aboard” dressed for their destination complete with carry-on bags, books and stuffed animals to keep them company.
As soon as we get Armstrong Air “off the ground”, the kids and I talk about where we’re “flying”, how long it will take to get there, why we fly a Great Circle and not a straight line, international culture and how and why the weather will be different wherever it is we’re landing. All of us always learn a lot.
Sometimes we learn more than we’d ever expect.
I've known Jill Guimond since moving to Westborough 15 years ago. We first met on the Hastings Parent Group where she was the school’s teacher representative. She was also my oldest son’s first grade teacher - and during that year most memorably re-introduced me to pumpkin pie we made together in class. Pumpkin pie was never a hit with me as a younger kid but through her, I learned to love it.
With some people, all it takes is the first word out of their mouth and a look in their eyes to know they’re “heart-of-the-envelop” right where they should be. For me, that’s a goose-bump moment I’m getting right now just remembering meeting Jill.
Over the years that’ve flown by faster than the jet her students and I “fly”, I’ve been in Jill’s class quite a few times to read with her students. I’ve watched her teach the mechanics of reading and what it means to read. All fun! But it was only while “flying” one of the first grade classes a few weeks ago that I found out Jill’s also a writer who’s just published her first illustrated children’s book: Little Red and the Boston Christmas Tree.
Talk about a great example of "practicing what you teach" not just for her students but for all of us! Jill’s labor of love combined creativity with persistence as she very deliberately spent 7 years taking her book from inspiration to completion. Some of her current students weren’t even born when she started putting the story together.
Little Red and the Boston Christmas Tree is the story of a young squirrel that gets separated from his family in Boston, seeks shelter in a tall Christmas tree that is being set up on Boston Common and learns from an older squirrel why Halifax, Nova Scotia has been sending a Christmas tree to Boston every year since 1917. It’s a terrifically fascinating story. To find out more, check out Jill’s book, which is beautifully illustrated by the father of one of her former students, Brian Cunningham, at either Tatnuck Booksellers or Learning Express or from Jill herself at email@example.com (there’s no “i” in the first part of that address).
Fly on, Armstrong! Inspire on, Jill!