By MICHAEL KITCH, LACONIA DAILY SUN
LACONIA — Filling the ranks of the bleachers of gymnasium, the teachers and students of Laconia High School rose as one on Tuesday to cheer and applaud the selection of Tate Aldrich as New Hampshire Teacher of the Year.
A graduate of Laconia High School, whose father, Jack, teaches culinary arts at the Huot Technical Center, Aldrich returned to his alma mater after graduating from the University of New Hampshire and has begun his eighth year teaching English.
"I am so proud to be a part and a product of this city," Aldrich said in accepting the honor. "I am who I am thanks to the city of Laconia and the University of New Hampshire."
He thanked his parents, his colleagues and especially the students. "A roomful of Laconia students is more inspiring than being named Teacher of the Year," he said.
Virginia Barry, New Hampshire Commissioner of Education, presented the award, which is the highlight of the program sponsored by the New Hampshire Department of Education in partnership with Hannaford Supermarkets. As Teacher of the Year, Aldrich will be among the candidates for National Teacher of the Year, a title awarded in Washington in April.
"I'm so lucky to have the opportunity to work here," Aldrich said. "Laconia is a special place and Sachem Pride is a real thing."
This year, he is teaching freshmen and juniors, reading what he called "the traditional books — 'Animal Farm,' 'Huckleberry Finn,' 'The Great Gatsby' — taking a new look at the old standbys."
He said he seeks to relate the material to the lives of his students and to encourage them to engage in critical thinking.
"I try to get into their heads and find out how they're thinking," he said. Education, he remarked, "should be an adventure for both teachers and students. I expect a lot, and I'm reborn every day. Teaching is the best part of my day, every day."
His father said that Aldrich "had a lot of wisdom as a kid" and "wanted to be a teacher before he ever said so, by the time he was in eighth grade. He loved the learning process," he said, adding that at the end of the school day the two talk about little other than teaching. "He's my best friend," he said.
Dave Bartlett, interim principal, described Aldrich as a teacher with aspirations for his students and for himself, who both challenges and supports those in his classes.
One freshman called Aldrich "awesome," while Ashley Burgos, a junior, said she enjoyed his classes, remembered him as "honest," and added "You could go to him for help anytime you wanted."
Helen Tautkus, a senior, confessed that as a freshman she was something of a "slacker," but said that changed after joining Aldrich's class as a sophomore.
"I became more confident in myself," she said. "He inspired me to do better and I wanted to do better. I worked a lot harder because of what he taught me."
Describing Aldrich as "enigmatic and subtle," senior Ben Montembeault tacitly testified to his proficiency at teaching English. He recalled that class began with Aldrich writing down his "pet peeves" and asking his students to do the same, then matching the lists to find a suitable protocol for conducting the class. "He can be your number one cheerleader," he said, "or your number one a**kicker, but he will try to bend heaven and earth to help his students. Screw up, and he helps."
Outside the classroom, Aldrich has forged the partnership between the spelling bee and Got Lunch! program and is also engaged with Stand Up Laconia, at once serving both his alma mater and his hometown.
Tate Aldrich addresses the students of Laconia High School after being named 2017 New Hampshire Teacher of the Year on Friday afternoon. (Karen Bobotas/for the Laconia Daily Sun)
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