WELLS — Together, their careers spanned 83 years of teaching in the Wells-Ogunquit Community School District, art teacher Sandy Brennan with 44 years at the Wells Elementary School and science teacher Bruce Fearon with 39 years at the Wells Junior High. That extensive tenure is ending this June as both teachers are retiring.
Fearon came to the Junior High in March 1979. A native of Saco, he attended UMaine Fort Kent, where he met his wife. They originally intended to live and work in northern Maine but finding employment wasn’t easy. Fearon said the couple then decided that they would relocate to wherever either one found employment first. Fearon landed a job at Wells Junior High, and they’ve been here ever since.
“In the beginning I taught science and language arts,” Fearon recalled. “Then, after a few years, it was strictly science. In the early years, I had over 100 kids each year, and taught seven classes.”
When asked whether teaching had changed over the years, Fearon said that it had. “It depended on what the focus was,” he said. “It was hands-on at first, then more of a focus on reading. Then, with the (learning) standards, we had to adjust. I had a love/hate relationship with them, whether to cover them all or focus on a few and get deeper. I preferred to get deeper. I tried to keep science fun and relevant. I think the kids had a good time.”
Fearon’s signature annual learning initiative was the Leaf Project, a rite of passage for Junior High kids for nearly four decades. It was an activity that involved students gathering leaves from trees and building a project around the collection. “The town is going to miss the Leaf Project,” he said.
In addition to teaching science, Fearon also spent time coaching at both the junior high and high schools, including track at both, and basketball and soccer at the junior high.
As far as memories, Fearon said he’d miss the people most of all. “I have a lot of good memories and good times,” he said. “There were a lot of amazing kids, fantastic and supportive parents. I won’t miss the building, but the people that I’ve had contact with and worked with, the kids, how they change and grow up.”
Fearon’s tenure extended so long that he has taught the children of his earliest students. He said that was an indication that it was time to move on. “I’m hoping not to have any of the grandchildren,” he said. “I didn’t want to be around that long.”
Art teacher Brennan came to Wells Elementary School in 1974, after working just one year after college as an ed tech in Portsmouth, New Hampshire at the elementary school where she did her student teaching. “I got a degree in Art Education at UNH,” Brennan said. “Back then, student teachers were usually sent to high schools. Another student and I said ‘no,’ we wanted elementary. So, they made an exception. I knew for sure that I wanted elementary.”
Brennan’s early years were divided between the Wells Elementary School and the Ogunquit Village School, teaching around 700 kids. Eventually, she was made full-time in Wells and then picked up the OVS kids again when the district closed that school. “I missed Ogunquit,” she said.
Brennan pointed out the annual student art exhibit at the Barn Gallery as a source of pride. “I’m proud of that,” she said. “I used to work there, and a board member approached me about having a student art show. We’ve just had our 40th show. It’s a wonderful time, parents come and are excited and proud.”
Brennan also cited the tile projects that she oversaw when the new WES building opened early in this century, in which elementary school students each decorated a tile that was then displayed. “When we moved into this building, we needed things to decorate, so we had the kids do the tile projects,” Brennan said. “We have done them twice. Guests commented on how great the student art work was.”
Brennan served as the president of the Maine Art Education Association for over 10 years and was named the Maine Art Education for 2014. She voiced pride in her two sons, one an architect and the other a VFX artist and composer in California.
When asked about a legacy, Brennan said, simply, “I started with the tiniest of programs here and really have tried to develop the best program I possibly could. I hope that doesn’t change when I’m gone.”
In addition to Fearon and Brennan, WOCSD retirees include Deb Howard (27 years), Cheryl Oakes (22 years), Henry Ingwersen (20 years), and Karen Westerberg (14 years).