When you ask people what kind of teacher Lorane's Mrs. Loretta Gaetani is, likely the word "humble" will come up time and time again in people's descriptions. Case in point: When we asked her what teaching accomplishment she's most proud of during her 37 year career--all spent at Lorane in 1st grade--she chose not to answer despite our plea to share her thoughts. But when you learn more about why she chose to become an educator, you soon realize that perhaps she's humble about her career because being a teacher seems like something she was born to do. "When you step into her classroom, you immediately feel a sense of calm and warmth--it's like you're at home," says Lorane's principal Mrs. Karen Hodge. "She downplays just how good of a teacher she is, but she immediately puts kids at ease and sets them in a nurturing environment, which allows them to thrive academically." Mrs. Emily Zientek, who's worked with Mrs. Gaetani for 17 years agrees, "She's a dedicated teacher who is passionate about helping all of her students grow as a learner and individuals to be the best version of themselves," she said.
As we continue our series of our longest-serving teachers here in Exeter, we're excited and proud to share this interview with Mrs. Gaetani, who did her student teaching at Exeter and began working at Lorane in 1986.
Q: Why did you decide to become a teacher?
A: I became a teacher because I wanted to follow in my mother's footsteps. Whenever I was not in school, I went to her school to help her and the children.
Q: Did you ever do anything other than teaching? If so, what?
A: I had many jobs as I was growing up. My first job was cleaning houses, retail, and fast food establishments.
Q: If you wouldn’t have been a teacher, what other career would you have pursued?
A: For some time, I wanted to be a social worker to work with children. After my first year at college, I switched my major to elementary education.
Q: Can you please tell us where you’ve taught, what you’ve taught and for how long?
A: My student-teaching experiences were in 4th and 2nd grade in Exeter. After graduation, I taught 3rd-grade summer school and was hired to teach first-grade. I have been teaching in first grade since 1986 at Lorane!
Q: What do you love most about teaching?
A: I consider my students and coworkers to be my second family.
Q: What was your favorite grade or subject when you were a student?
A: Ironically, it was not first grade. I absolutely loved 2nd and 5th grade because of my teachers. My 5th grade allowed me to stay after school to hang work on the bulletin boards and to correct papers. As a reward, she would give me a root beer barrel piece of candy.
Q: What’s a moment you’ll never forget from teaching?
A: In my first year of teaching, I had a student with religious beliefs that did not celebrate holidays. At Christmas time, the other students brought presents, and she wanted to give me something too. While waiting for the bus, she spotted a dead flower arrangement in a neighbor's trash. She collected it and proudly presented it to me! It was a gift from the heart, and after all these years, I haven't forgotten.
Q: What’s a lesson you’ve learned from your students that you’ll never forget?
A: The students at Lorane are so accepting and inclusive of everyone.
Q: What’s the best thing about teaching in Exeter?
A: I have been teaching for so many years that I am now teaching my former students' children!
Q: What have you learned about the profession since becoming a teacher?
A: I learned that the curriculum may change, but students are always excited to learn!
Q: What’s one skill that you hope all students learn from you?
A: I hope my students always remember to do their best work, be kind, and that amazing things will happen!
Q: What advice would you give to yourself as a first-year teacher?
A: Don't sweat the small things; there's always tomorrow.