In 1993, I was just 12-years old in the sixth grade. My elementary school St. Thomas More aka STM, was celebrating their 25th anniversary. In May of that year, kids from kindergarten all the way to the eighth grade assembled for a large school photo and put it into a time capsule. Each classroom participated and contributed items that would be put into that same time capsule and would later be opened at the school’s 50th anniversary. 25 years later on May 7th, 2018, I made sure to return to my roots and check out the festivities.
I attended the STM 50th anniversary with one of my childhood friends from the third grade. When we got there, we arrived to see the current crop of elementary kids participating in a musical presentation for the audience. Inside the gym, it was scattered with parents, faculty, former teachers and students that spanned decades. A slideshow followed that highlighted 50 years of the school’s history.
When the presentation in the large gymnasium concluded, people started to mingle and catch up with one another. Unfortunately there weren’t too many people from my grade or even teachers for that matter that attended this reunion. To be honest, the school did a terrible job of promoting the 50th anniversary. You would think that in this social media age, they would use it to their advantage to spread the word around such a momentous occasion. I found out about this 50th anniversary through the church that was next door to STM. They had a weekly newsletter, that had a small mention about it.
Anyways not to get off track in my story, I went into the smaller gymnasium (our school had two gyms), looking to see the time capsule. I was very intrigued to see the nostalgia inside that big wooden box that was padlocked for a quarter of a century. From a pop culture standpoint what I remember during that spring of 1993, Hulk Hogan was WWF champion and the Blue Jays got off to a rocky start in what would be their eventual second World Series championship season. The Maple Leafs were shocking the entire NHL and having an unbelievable playoff run at the time. The Fresh Prince of Bel Air was a popular comedy show among my classmates and Lenny Kravitz’ ‘Are You Gonna Go My Way‘ was a really big record.
When I finally saw all the items from the time capsule spread across the table, my childhood memories started to kick in. It was really cool to see what kind of stuff was inside there. There was a dated newspaper inside there, with politician Jean Chrétien leading the headlines with his running for Prime Minister. There were baseball cards and hockey cards from the 1992-1993 season. One class cut out fashion magazines and made collages, highlighting the fashion trends and styles of that year. Two mixtape cassettes were found in there, ranging from all the popular artists at the time such as Snow, Nirvana, Janet Jackson, Mariah Carey and Robin S to name a few. There was a VHS tape that had footage of a videographer coming to everyone’s class earlier in the year and having them say something on camera. They were playing that same video in the school’s library on an old TV that looked like this lol.
I was really disappointed that my class’ contribution, an ecosystem was not displayed on the table. I remember we submitted some fishbowl looking glass display with plants and algae inside it…maybe when they opened it smelled funny or the water evaporated, I have no clue lol.
I started looking at the school’s large class photo trying to find myself in the portrait, while smiling and giggling at all the familiar faces I come across. This lady nearby started talking to me and asked, “Were you in this picture? What grade were you in when this picture was taken?” I started to converse with her, thinking she probably was a teacher from before or after my time at STM. Initially I did not recognize that the person I was talking to was actually my eighth grade English teacher, Mrs. D’Andrea. I eventually clued in when I looked at her visitor name tag on her shirt. Immediately I had a large grin on my face and reminded her that I was one of her students during the 1994-1995 school year. I’m pretty sure she did not remember me at first (how many kids names can one person remember after being retired for a decade plus?), but I admired the fact that she took the time to talk to me.
We started reminiscing about that time period and name dropping other teachers who were her colleagues. I inquired if she kept in touch with them or if they had planned to attend the reunion. While it was a shame none of them showed up, I was happy to see at least see one of them and have this chat.
I reminded her that in the spring of 1995, we had a creative writing assignment and I wrote a piece on Magic Johnson, post NBA life. I remembered her handing back the assignments in front of the whole class and she gave quick feedback to each student on their efforts. When she got to my paper, she said “Wayne you surprised me with this. You could have wrote a paper that focused on his championship accolades etc, but you focused more on his outreach with handling HIV, his philanthropic efforts and much more. Great job.” As I told her that story Mrs. D’Andrea had a smile on her face, but I had one more thing to say to her.
I concluded by letting her know that, “If you didn’t hear it enough during your time as a teaching professional, if I never get the chance to see you again…on behalf of all my classmates, I wanted to say thank you. Thank you for molding us, you know… shaping us…helping us prepare for the real word and sparking our creative writing outlets.” As I was saying this, she started to get teary eyed, which wasn’t my intention but it happened anyways. She gave me a great big hug and I think I made her day. It was important for me to express my gratitude to her. Teachers in general, play a huge role in the development of a child into an adult. I’ll always be appreciative and respectful for teachers who really matter.
Growing up, my classmates thought she was an intimidating teacher. An urban legend circled around for years that she once threw a desk at someone when she lost her cool lol. I told her that myth and her body language did not confirm or deny the story, so I’ll leave it at that 😂. I can honestly say that I never encountered that as her student and she was great with us. Overall, it was great to see Mrs. D’Andrea and thank her all these years later.
St. Thomas More’s 50th anniversary celebration was cool to attend and look back on many fond memories. For me, I’ve always loved the school. It was my training ground that groomed me into the person that I am today. The education I received there helped me prepare for high school and life later on. Most notably it’s the place where I learned the importance of friendship and loyalty. Some of my oldest friends come from STM and we’re always proud to remember our old stomping grounds.
It’s hard to see yourself in 25 years when you were just a child. Now a days it’s hard alone to see what you are doing in the next two weeks sometimes. I look back to that big school photo from 1993 and two of my friends are deceased. It’s sad and unfortunate. They probably would have loved to attend this anniversary.
I posted the pictures on Facebook and many people had forgotten about the reunion and wished they were there. The whole local event could have been better promoted. But that’s not to say all of the organizer’s efforts should be discredited. Thank you to everyone involved, who volunteered their time to make it happen nonetheless. Next time if the school needs some promo, just holler at me…I’ll be your social media guy! And I’ll see you at the 75th anniversary in 2043! ✌🏻