Teacher from England ‘had to be here’
Citizen Telegram Editor
As the names of her students from 12 years ago were called and they crossed the stage at Rifle High School to get their diploma on Saturday, Trish Ebbrell would snap a photo.
In a way, she thinks of them as her children, having taught them as kindergartners at Wamsley Elementary School. But this is only the second time Ebbrell – who went by her maiden name of Hanna when she came over from England on a Fullbright teaching scholarship in 2001 – has seen any of them.
If you don’t count Facebook, where she had stayed in touch with several.
“That’s how I kept track of as many as I could” from her home near Liverpool, Ebbrell said while sitting under a bright, sunny Colorado ski in the stands at Bears Stadium. In her lap, she held an old quilt with the handprints of her young students.
“It lives on my classroom chair back in England,” she said as she looked at the frayed but still colorful quilt with fond memories. “Every year, I tell my students all about it.”
In England, Ebbrell teaches students in “reception,” similar to kindergarten, she said. Her students are a year younger, though, 4 and 5 years of age.
However, English schools do not hold graduation ceremonies, Ebbrell noted.
“We’re not big on celebrating in England,” she added. “About the only tradition is signing shirts.”
Out of the 30 or so students she taught at Wamsley as kindergartners, around 20 received diplomas in Rifle on Saturday.
“When they told me when they were going to graduate, I said I had to come and be here,” Ebbrell said.
The only other time Ebbrell visited was in 2004, when her students were in the fourth grade.
“That was a surprise then,” she recalled.
Rifle is “like my second home,” Ebbrell added. “I want to come back more often.”
However, her trip to Rifle – she also attended graduation ceremonies a day earlier at Coal Ridge High School to see a handful of her former students – took 22 hours and three flights.
“But this is likely my last chance to see all of them together,” Ebbrell said.
After all 146 graduates were recognized at the ceremony in Rifle, Ebbrell walked down to the football field and hugged as many of her former students as she could find.
Jamie Hesselberg recalled how “Ms. Hanna” taught her and the others to write and learn about numbers.
“We kept in touch with Facebook and sent Christmas cards,” Hesselberg said. “I was super excited when she said she would be here. I remember the quilt, too.”
Another former student and now graduate of the class of 2013, Kimberly Rausin, said it was “real nice” to see her teacher from a dozen years ago.
“She would always say our names with this cool accent,” Rausin added.
After greeting several of her students, Ebbrell said she felt elation and nostalgia.
“It was a bit strange to see them all grown up,” she stated. “But I was thrilled to see them before they go their separate ways. This was my very first class, and they’re still the main ones I keep in touch with. I’m so happy to have been here for this.”
For each former student, Ebbrell handed them a Lucky Sixpence, a small metal English currency no longer in use, she said.
“It’s supposed to bring good luck,” Ebbrell added.
That seemed fitting for a new graduate, all grown up from the little kindergartners Ebbrell will always remember.
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