Year in Review: HHS Staff Finds New Ways to Unwind in 2020

By Ashley Stracco, ’24

Staff Writer

In the year of Coronavirus – also known as 2020 – we all had a great deal of time on our hands that we did not know what to do with. Some of us watched TikToks, reels on Instagram, and shows and movies provided by multiple streaming services. Others spent their time gaming and sleeping. Some people obtained a new skill. I, for one, started baking and cooking for my family. My specialty: banana muffins. 

Our HHS staff was no different. In between mastering remote teaching and dealing with other pandemic changes, they needed something for stress relief or entertainment. Some rediscovered a hobby they used to love, while some picked up an entirely – and sometimes surprising – new skill.

Mr. Henderson, an English teacher, has taken up scootering and skateboarding with his family. “I’m terrible at it – truly, terrible – but I find it gives us all a good laugh together,” he said. “I’ve also been playing more video games, mostly with my daughters, with some of the pandemic time. If it goes on much longer, I’m hoping to pick up the guitar again.”

Ms. Tarkanian, a special education teacher, worked on improving her skills baking and decorating sugar cookies. “I make the cookies and royal icing from scratch and then put my skills to work.”

Mrs. Youngworth, a French teacher, started doing puzzles. ” ‘Crazy, drive you a little bit insane, all the pieces look alike’ puzzles,” she said. “I found it very calming to sit there away from a screen and sort through the colors and shapes.” The puzzles were something that everyone in the family could help with as much, or as little, as they wanted to, she explained, and they framed several to hang in the family room when they were done. “Everyone signed and dated the back as we finished each one, so we will have a record of the craziness that was 2020 piece by piece.”

Mrs. Gately, who teaches Spanish, also got hooked on puzzles. “I had forgotten how much I liked to do puzzles as a kid,” she said. “I can’t believe how it completely frees my mind from the outside world and helps me to focus on the simple task of matching shapes and designs. Very satisfying!!!  Now, we always have a puzzle in progress on a table.”

Mr. Decie, who teaches science, rediscovered a role-playing game that he enjoys called Dungeons and Dragons. Created in the 1970s, the game allows players to create characters and go on adventures, all designed by the player known as a Dungeon Master. His games often included fellow science teacher Mrs. Emerson, who also got into TikTok during the pandemic. “Watching Tiktok makes time fly by and makes me feel like all my crazy isn’t crazy,” she said. “I love the parents acting like their teens.

Guidance Secretary Mrs. Gallagher tackled a few do-it-yourself furniture painting projects. “I found these few projects a great distraction from the stress of the pandemic that I could not control,” she said. “They helped take my mind from the negative worries.”

Mr. Sprague, a special education teacher, built a treehouse for his kids.

It’s probably no surprise that Mrs. McCusker, a history teacher and former school librarian, spent her extra time during the pandemic reading. 

Ms. Johnson, a special education paraprofessional, rekindled her love of art. “Because of the pandemic, I have been able to spend more time painting and drawing,” she said. “I especially enjoy painting on beach stones and writing inspirational messages on them.” 

Ms. Rapalje, the school adjustment counselor, also enjoyed rock painting. “It is very calming and meditative,” she said.

English teacher Mrs. McDonnell used her time during quarantine to get back to yoga and take more walks. “These activities allowed me daily to mentally refresh during a stressful time,” she said. 

Baking bread and taking up cross-stitch have helped Mrs. Stukenborg, assistant principal, through the pandemic. Mrs. Parry,  a science and math teacher, also started making sourdough.

Cooking became a passion for Mrs. Coates, a history teacher. “It allowed me the opportunity to use a creative flare as well as serve up some new and delicious recipes!”

Math teacher Mrs. Thompson has been having dance parties with her 3-year-old son during quarantine. “Dancing is a hobby of mine, and I haven’t been able to dance much during the pandemic,” she said. “We talk about how to move our bodies, how different movements can portray feelings, and it’s just been so much fun for us!”

Drama director Mr. Fahey returned to writing music, plays and poetry. “It was great to get back to writing and express my ideas during a difficult time

Mr. Rodday, a special education teacher, has been riding bikes with his family. 

In an effort to cut back on screen time for her and her youngest daughter, paraprofessional Mrs. Mann began making chalk signs and other home decor items. “It is very simple and can be very relaxing,” she said.

School nurse Mrs. Davis developed the skill of contract tracing for COVID-19 – something she’s put to good use this school year.  She also helped provide for the elderly over the summer with little to no contact. 

Mrs. Nixon, a special education teacher, learned to crochet. “I always wanted to learn how, so with the additional time at home, my sister taught me.”

Creating music playlists helped special education teacher Mrs. Fraser. “When I was younger (high school/college years), I used to make playlists for family and friends and it would relieve a lot of stress.”

Mrs. Curtis, a Spanish teacher, learned how to cut men’s hair and how to do embroidery. 

Math teacher Mrs. Turocy enjoyed geocaching. “It  is like treasure hunting . . . following GPS to a location on a trail to find someone else’s ‘cache’ they hid there.”

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