There is something a little different about the Lincoln School yearbook this year. A dedication page was included to recognize someone who is retiring at the end of the school year after working 31 years in the school district — physical education teacher Mez Chilcott.
School monitor Tony Comella and teacher assistant Jerri Martin, who have served as the yearbook committee for the last five years, decided to pay tribute to Chilcott in the 2018 yearbook.
“She means so much to everyone in this building,’’ Comella said. “She will be greatly missed.’’
“We really had to do something special for Mez, because each year she has contact with, a connection to, every single child in this building,’’ Martin said. “She’s always promoted the virtues of children being a ‘Lincoln kid,’ not just while they are here but after they move on. What’s more, each year she puts together this beautiful video about the happenings of the entire school year that is shown at the end of the second-grade graduation. So we felt we wanted to do something very special for her.’’
Chilcott was moved to tears when she received the yearbook at the Farewell Friday assembly.
“It was a total surprise,” she said. “It made me cry. It also made me realize that I’m really going to be leaving.”
Chilcott, who has worked in each of the five schools in Newark Central School District, said her decision to retire is bittersweet.
“I’m leaving because I think it’s time; it’s someone else’s turn,’’ she said. “I’m excited to be retiring, but I’ve worked with amazing children and staff and learned from them. The tough part is I won’t be seeing them on a daily basis.
The Erie, Pennsylvania, native received her bachelor’s degree in PE, special education and health from Edinboro University and her master’s degree in recreation from Memphis University. She started working in adapted PE for special needs children at Lincoln School, the middle school and Newark High School in 1987.
Chilcott’s sunny disposition and creative teaching techniques — which include costumes, props and equipment — make her PE classes instructive, interesting and memorable.
“Kids remember things that way,’’ Chilcott said.
For example, Chilcott teaches first- and second-graders to roller skate by learning how to drive on roadways in the gym on their skates. She makes the scene complete with road signs, and functions as Officer Chilcott to hand out tickets for various infractions. Children learn to avoid things that can suddenly appear in the road, such as Chilcott’s remote-controlled deer and skunk.
“I’ve taught them they always have to be observant, whether driving someday or skating,” Chilcott said. “Animals don’t know how to read and obey signs like they do, so they have to be very observant.”
Chris Mizro, who retired from Kelley School as principal at the end of the 2011-12 school year, currently functions part-time as interim principal while Stephanie Miller is on maternity leave. During the 10 years she was principal at Lincoln School, she worked with Chilcott.
“The words that come to mind when I think about Mez are passion and dedication to kids,” Mizro said. “I don’t think I’ve ever met an educator who can relate to children like Mez does. It’s almost as if it were magic. The connections she makes with all kids are magical. She will truly be missed.”
Mary Lou Bonnell, general music teacher at Lincoln School, partnered with Chilcott over the last 15 years to produce the second-grade holiday play that debuts at the breakfast each December when second-graders meet their senior citizen pen pals.
“The children really look up to Mez,” Bonnell said. “She brings their lessons to life. She makes things fun, and children learn when they are having fun. She teaches children how to be a whole person. She brings her joy of living into everything she does. No matter what Mez does or where she lands, she will always be a teacher because that’s her spirit.”
Chilcott, who lives in Lyons with her husband, Edward Pecoy, a self-employed diesel engine mechanic, isn’t certain what she wants to do after retiring. She said she’s probably going to rest for a while and then do some traveling. When asked what her fondest memory while teaching would be, she said it would be impossible to pinpoint because there are so many.
Chilcott attributes her unique teaching style and outlook on life to her parents.
“My mom and dad made me the teacher that I am, because we played so many games as a family,” she said. “They made everything fun, and their outlook was always so great. I am very blessed not just to have had them as parents, but to find out what I was good at and be able to do it.”