After 48 years of teaching in Catholic schools in Biddeford, trying to surprise Estelle Beauchesne with anything is pretty much an exercise in futility. Thursday proved to be a worthy and deserved exception.
Under the ruse of a meeting at the diocesan offices in Portland, Estelle, along with Nancy Naimey, principal of St. James School in Biddeford, were sitting in a large conference room on Thursday morning when Bishop Robert Deeley, Marianne Pelletier, the superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools, and several family members came through the doors of the room bearing smiles and the 2022 Maine Catholic School Teacher of the Year Award. Click here to watch the video of the ceremony.
“It’s such a privilege to present this to you,” said Bishop Deeley. “You are what our Catholic schools are about. Thank you for leading our children who are so eager to learn. You oversee their formation, not just academically, but spiritually, psychologically, and physically. We are so thankful for you and grateful to you.”
“You inspire others, the students, the teachers, a priest, that light within you shines to everybody,” said Nancy Naimey, principal of St. James. “That’s a gift.”
“I did the math. You’ve touched the lives of at least 1,225 students and worked over 70,000 hours,” said Marianne Pelletier, superintendent of Maine Catholic Schools. “Your perseverance is overwhelming and amazing. There is a lot to celebrate.”
A Biddeford native, Estelle attended St. André Church and St. André School, but spent her last year of high school at St. Louis School, in the very building where St. James is now located and where she serves as a third-grade teacher.
“I was very fortunate to come from a very faith-filled family,” said Estelle. “My dad was involved at church. My mom was a stay-at-home mom, but she was very involved with us with our prayers. We were brought up with aunts and uncles and grandparents who were very prayerful. One aunt and uncle, we couldn’t go anywhere with them without my aunt pulling out the rosary at the end of the trip, and we would be saying the Rosary on the way back home.”
Filled with faith from a young age, Estelle says she felt like she was born to teach and knew she wanted to be a teacher going back to her childhood, a career that began at St. André in 1973, moved to St. James in 1992 when schools merged, and continues today with, gratefully, no sign of stopping.
“Retirement has never been in my mind. I’ve gotten closer now, of course, but it was never something that I said, ‘Oh at this age, I’ll retire,’” said Estelle.
During the celebration, Estelle had a chance to reflect on the past, as one of her past students, Jessica Letendre, was in attendance. Jessica is now the director of cemeteries for the Diocese of Portland.
And a special phone call rang through as well as Sister Margaret Camire, p.m., who taught Estelle in grammar school, called to congratulate her.
“She had a way of teaching us that we could really understand, and she was energetic,” said Estelle.
A sentiment shared by the students and teachers blessed to encounter Estelle over the years and decades.
“Thank you very much. This is wonderful. I had good examples as a child in Catholic school and wonderful teaching partners helping me through the years,” Estelle told those gathered. “Every year I want to do better. Every year when I’m cleaning my room, I’m thinking ‘well, what can I do next year?’ So, when I’m not doing that anymore, I’ll know it’s time!”
As part of the award, Estelle received a beautiful afghan as well as $1,000: $500 for her classroom and $500 for her.
To learn more about Estelle, you will find an extended profile of her life and career in the next edition of Harvest, the official maga