At the conclusion of last week's Flag Day celebration at Macdonough School, an announcement that came as a surprise — at least to the dozens of parents in attendance — second-grade teacher Allison Monarca would be moving on.
"It's with very deep sadness that we'll be missing Ms. Alison Monarca," said Principal Jon Romeo to the crowd, explaining she wasn't going far — to become a guidance counselor at Woodrow Wilson Middle School.
Which means Monarca will be working with many of the students she taught and came to know over her 11-year tenure at the North End elmentary school.
Still, the announcement was an emotional one for colleague and friend Joanne Jukins, also a second-grade instructor.
Jukins explained how difficult it was making the transition to a new school when she first arrived at Macdonough "many years ago."
"I just never could have done it without her," she said, her voice faltering.
"You all know what it's like to be on a team," Jukins said to the audience. "We have had a team from day one — in every sense of the word."
It took Monarca three and a half years to complete her masters degree in school counseling at Central Connecticut State University — going part-time in the evenings and during the summer. She already holds a double-major bachelors of science degree in elementary and special education from Salve Regina University.
Monarca said she first made the decision to become a middle-school guidance counselor about four years ago. "I wanted to do something more individual and in a small group setting."
At Woodrow Wilson, she'll be working with seventh- and eighth-graders in a new initiative — continuing the social skills program sixth-graders at Keigwin Middle School have been taught. It's known as the ROCKS program: Responsibility, Organization, Cooperation, Kindness and Safety.
"By teaching students to follow these five principles, we are hoping to create an environment where a child will flourish and will achieve all the goals we have set for them. They have the ability to do great things, and these standards will help to give them the foundation they need to be successful," Monarca explains.
"I am also working with a group of teachers to write lessons on social/emotional, academic and career lessons."
Last fall, she did her internship at Woodrow Wilson and saw many of her former students — all grown up. "I was actually able to see a lot of them ... it was really neat to jump in and be able to help them."
Still, it's a bittersweet departure for Monarca, as she told the crowd last week. "You have truly become my family and I will take all of you with me in my heart as I move on."