13 to retire from Salem schools

Courtesy photoBob Berthel, shown here in a photograph from 1996, is one of 13 staff members retiring from the Salem School District this year. Berthel was first hired by Salem schools in 1979, shortly after he graduated from Salem High.

SALEM, N.H. — Thirteen staff members are retiring from the Salem School District after decades each of varying involvement.

The outgoing group was recognized at a recent School Board meeting, where their accomplishments were praised with applause.

Longtime Superintendent Michael Delahanty, also retiring after this academic year, spoke of the significant void these retirees will leave in the school district’s overall culture.

“If you look at these names, they’ve quietly gone about their work year in and year out, week in and week out, day in and day out, always inspiring confidence,” he said. “They’re taking a tremendous amount of talent with them.”

Below are profiles of each, including information about their achievements and tenure in Salem schools provided by members of the School Board:

Robert Berthel began his career in 1979 as a media assistant for Salem schools, shortly after earning his own diploma from Salem High. He advanced to become a media technician and was ultimately promoted to the district’s top media coordination position in 2006. Berthel’s 40 years on the job have involved assisting in television production, repairing equipment and most recently dual-streaming district programs throughout the pandemic. He is credited with establishing the award-winning Blue Devil Film Club, as well as creating the Salem Woodbury Alumni Facebook page. To date, the page is followed by almost 3,400 people. Berthel’s legacy will live on in the programs he founded and his many efforts, which include bringing Salem football games to television. He was inducted into the Woodbury Hall of Fame in 1995 for his contributions to Salem schools and the greater community.

Sean Cox has taught across the district in varying roles, beginning 39 years ago as a science teacher at Woodbury Middle School. Cox’s focus eventually turned to the district's health and physical education department. A member of the Salem High and Woodbury halls of fame, Cox has also been recognized by local and state organizations in his capacity as athletic trainer. He is credited with being at nearly every athletic game, only missing events when multiple teams are playing simultaneously. Cox has been responsible for certifying Salem teachers and coaches annually in the latest CPR and AED methods.

John Gatsas spent all of his 36 years employed by the Salem School District teaching at Fisk Elementary. He was hired as a fifth-grade teacher in 1985, moving on later to teach fourth grade. His long list of accolades includes a 1998 nomination for “Who's who among American teachers,” a New Hampshire teacher of the year nomination, and a Disney American teacher of the year nomination. He juggled his Fisk duties with coaching high school field hockey, lacrosse and basketball for 32 years. His teams made 27 appearances in state tournaments, and included more than 50 athletes who went on to compete at the college level. A member of the Woodbury Hall of Fame, Gatsas has also been recognized more broadly by The Eagle-Tribune sports department and state officials as a top coach.

Lisa Hall was hired as a long-term substitute in 1979 and has since worked in special education departments at Woodbury, Haigh and Barron. She has also taught fourth and fifth grade at Barron and North Salem. For over 35 years, Hall has been described as a steadfast member of the Salem Education Association and parent-teacher association in each school she has worked.

Christine Honey-Nadeau retires after 20 years at Salem schools and a string of promotions. She was hired as a substitute art teacher at Lancaster and Soule schools and later became a permanent art teacher. After taking an assistant principal job in another district for a year, Honey-Nadeau returned to Salem to become principal of Haigh Elementary. She moved again to lead Soule and Barron, bringing her tally of Salem schools served to four. She is credited with leading Haigh students and staff through the school’s closure and maintaining a constant focus on mental health and students who have undergone trauma.

Lilian Houghton, an employee since 1984, was a learning disability specialist for a decade before becoming a safe assessment specialist. She held that position for 25 years leading to her retirement. Houghton worked closely with special education students at Haigh, Barron, Soule and most recently North Salem. Her training in crisis prevention and intervention has been highly valued.

Susan Jannino was hired as a second-grade teacher at Barron in 1999. She twice “looped” with students, meaning she kept the same class through their third-grade year. She is described as an active member of school-based communities and clubs, promoting wellness and kindness. Students in Jannino’s class started each day with an “I believe in myself” pledge. Similarly, she promoted wellness among co-workers by leading a weekly meditation.

Curtis Killion is retiring after 35 years of service to Salem schools. Killion was originally hired as a business teacher, leading courses in accounting, introduction to business and economics. Not long after being hired, school officials approached Killion about a new course called data processing at a time when the concept was new in general. He is credited with educating himself on the latest hardware and software in order to lead his students. Together, Killion and his classes have provided posters, flyers, yearbooks, banners and programs for every school in the district. Killion was a longtime coach of Salem High’s boy’s and girl’s tennis teams.

Jane Kubelbek, hired in 1981, started as a home economics teacher and has expanded student offerings with the times. “Mrs. K” is known for reaching academically and physically challenged students, making the skills she teaches accessible to everyone. She has taught courses in human growth and development, cuisine, life after high school, and her true passion — clothing design and construction. Many school groups, including ROTC and the actor’s guild, have benefited from her skills as a seamstress. Similarly, she has led students to assemble tote bags and quilts to donate to local organizations.

Paula McKinnon has worked as a nurse at Woodbury for 27 years. Best known as “Nurse Paula,” she is credited with looking out for the health and wellness of 1,000 people in the middle school at any given time. She was recently named president of the New Hampshire Nurses Association. When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, her thoughts and advice in that role were frequently shared statewide. Outside of nursing, McKinnon directed plays and musicals at Woodbury.

Laura Soucy has shared a passion for art with Salem students K-8 since 1998. Soucy often displayed student artwork throughout the district’s schools, at Kelley Library and elsewhere in the community. Summertime at camps at Salem High, including watercolor workshops for adults, are among Soucy’s contributions.

Adam Pagliarulo leaves Salem schools after 20 years. He began as a dean at Salem High before accepting a position as director of humanities. Pagliarulo later moved on to Lancaster Elementary, where he became principal. His greatest notoriety is in the partnership between Salem schools and Salem Children Dental Health Network, where he serves on the board of directors. Every year, Salem elementary and middle school students have a chance to receive free dental care through the network.

Kathy Peters is retiring from the school district, but will still have a presence in town through her family’s business, Peter’s Farm. Peters has been an educator for 40 years, 18 of which were spent at Woodbury teaching French culture and language. She is credited with coordinating the schoolwide Box Top for Education drive and American Cancer Society Daffodil Days. Peters has a reputation for supporting her students at their athletic events, spelling bees and musical performances.

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