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Archives End of an era: Educator retires after 45 years

Oct. 17, 2018

By Darcy Fargo

Watertown – Annette Connolly started her career in Catholic education more than 45 years ago as a part-timeAnnette Connolly teacher at St. Anthony’s School. While she retired from her position as vice principal at Immaculate Heart Central’s Intermediate School on Sept. 30, she has no intentions of stepping completely away from the students, staff and building she loves.

“When I started, I told my husband I wouldn’t go to teaching full-time until both of our two daughters were in school full-time,” Connolly said, noting she taught fourth grade students in the morning, while the school principal taught classes in the afternoon.

Teaching in the small school her daughters attended, Connolly had both of her daughters in class.

“The girls adapted quite well, even though they weren’t thrilled with it,” she said. “My first year teaching full-time, my oldest daughter was in my class. I was Mrs. Connolly during the day, mom at 2:30 when the school day ended.”

Connolly taught fourth grade for 13 years before moving on to teach teaching seventh and eighth grades.
“I wouldn’t move to the higher grades until my girls were out of school,” she said. “I didn’t want to make them have me as their teacher two times. That would’ve been a lot.”

Connolly became principal of St. Anthony’s in 1994. For the first two years, she was a “teaching principal.”

“I taught class for most of the day, and a wonderful teacher came in and taught English. Then I had that hour to work in the office. I had a wonderful secretary who could answer questions and give me a list of people I needed to contact when I came into the office.”

With the merger of the Catholic primary schools, Connolly assumed her current role as vice principal at the IHC Intermediate School in 2004.

Whether it was at St. Anthony’s or IHC, Connolly said Catholic education was always home to her. She first became acquainted with St. Anthony’s shortly after moving to the area with her husband, who was in the military for 26 years.

Her daughters first attended school in Carthage when the family “decided they needed a bit more than academics.”

“We found St. Anthony’s, and it was home,” Connolly said.

She had other career opportunities, but she said they never felt like a fit.

“I had a friend who taught at South Jefferson,” Connolly said. “They had an opening in fourth grade, and she wanted me to apply. I told her, ‘you don’t want me. By the time I looked at a child and said, “would Jesus want you to do that,” I’d be out the front door. This was home.’”

Connolly said she has taken great joy from the relationships she’s developed while working in Catholic education.

“I’ve enjoyed the kids and the parents,” she said. “You never know the impact you have until years later. I had one student at St. Anthony’s, and years later, she sent me a note and said she was going to be a teacher because of me.”

She also inspired her family. One daughter and two granddaughters went on to pursue teaching careers.

“It’s really a legacy she’s leaving behind,” said Kari Conklin, IHC Elementary vice principal. “She’s been such a fabulous spiritual leader and a wealth of knowledge. I wouldn’t have made it in my position without her.”

“I’m looking forward to (substitute teaching) and doing a little traveling with my husband, who has waited patiently for me to retire,” she said. “But I’m going to miss everything about this. I told Kari (Conklin) to wean me off slowly. I ‘ve enjoyed every moment of this, including the bumps in the road. We have wonderful, supporting staff, great parents and the kids are awesome. Last year, as we ended the school year, was thinking ‘this is my last closing mass and last sixth grade graduation.’ Then I thought, ‘No. I’ll still be involved. It will always be home.’”

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