Ode to Hillside: Teachers share morale-boosting ‘Hawk Express’ deliveries, and celebrate principal’s leadership

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Some examples of the Hawk Train announcements sent out to Hillside staff over the past few months.

Editor’s Note: Helene Stanley, a teacher at Hillside Middle School, reached out to share the following details of a schoolwide initiative launched by Principal Brendan McCafferty, to keep spirits bright. We thank Helene, along with Sara Loughlin and Ashley White, for contributing to the following post.


Hillside Middle School in Manchester.

Our principal, Brendan McCafferty and his administrative team have implemented some activities to support staff during this difficult time. It goes without saying that these positive outcomes impact our students as well.

They created a Hawk Express “train” that provides daily dedications from staff members to each other, expressing their appreciation and/or acknowledging talents their colleagues display. The Hawk Express also has a section for song dedications and several staff members have submitted original recordings. The talent is amazing. In addition, there have been raffles, Secret Santa, meals, coffee carts, ice cream carts, hot chocolate provided for staff in the building.
The focus has been so positive, the culture feels supportive and the message of self-care is strong. – Helene Stanley

Hillside parent, Melissa Umpierrezz, supplied our staff with Backroom tenders and fries.

Hillside Hawk Express Surprise Train

Below is a list of some of the positivity and staff morale boosters that have taken place over the past two months.  The priority has been to bring happiness and positivity to all of our staff members during these trying times.  The “Hawk Express” has made 2-3 stops each week since mid-October.  They range from coffee and bagels carts, pizza, chines, chicken tenders, soup, hot cocoa, donuts, pumpkin rolls, ben and jerry’s ice cream truck, and many more.

  • 12/22- LAST STOP OF THE YEAR.  Staff members had the chance to choose their own Chinese luncheon special.  This was delivered to their classrooms with drinks as well.
  • 12/21- Hillside teachers surprised the office staff with lunch from goldenrod, ice cream, poinsettias, and Hannaford gift cards.  This was to show their appreciation for all the positive things we have been doing for them this year.  They also created a slideshow of appreciation for us.  Here is the link to it:
  • 12/21- Staff members provided homemade hot cocoa and biscotti.  Staff members were able to choose toppings for their hot cocoa.  We also surprised them with fresh popcorn and chocolates in the afternoon.
  • 12/18/20:  Hillside provided pizza and soda for the staff today.  Unfortunately, we forgot to take a pic 🙁
  • 12/15/20:  Hillside parent, Karen Demers, made fresh popcorn for the staff.  Admin also went around and delivered chocolate bags for the in-school teachers.
  • 12/10- Hillside parent, Melissa Umpierrezz, supplied our staff with Backroom tenders and fries.
  • 12/8 Fresh popcorn and chocolate bags for the staff.  Thank you Karen Demers for coming in to pop it all~!
  • Karen Demers, Hillside parent, donated coffee from DD and bagels from Bagel Cafe on Friday, 12/4.
  • Ben and Jerry’s came by to visit on 12/1!  It was a 60-degree day in Manchester and the weather couldn’t have been more perfect for an outdoor ice cream.
  • Goldenrod Tenders and fries were donated by the Zolla family (Hillside parents)  on 11/30.
  • The Sapienza family (Hillside parents) anonymously donated individual subs, sides, and desserts on 11/20/20.
  • Connie George (Hillside grandmother) donated soup from Jerome’s Deli on 11/19/20.
  • The Friedland Family (Hillside parents) donated pizzas for the staff on 11/16/20.
  • Stephen Law Group (Hillside parents) donated pizza for the staff on 10/22/20.
  • Emma Blaisdell (Hillside parent) donated coffee, bagels, and pumpkin bars on 11/19/20.  Hillside staff member, Adrian Newton, donated homemade pumpkin rolls for this as well.  On 10/26, Hillside parent, Tracy Paige donated coffee for the entire staff.
  • Another round of daily raffles prizes going out in the mail.  We raffle off 5 daily prizes.  Now that we are remote we send out the prizes and in these envelopes, there is a certificate of appreciation and a $15 gift card to Dunkin Donuts.
  • Annual Secret Santa with a few new rules this year!

    A Teacher Reflects on Coming Home to Hillside

The faculty and staff celebrating Principal Brendan McCafferty’s 50th birthday by dressing like him.

By Ashley White

My teaching career began in 2010 at Hillside. A lot of changes happened in the building during that first year, ending with Brendan McCafferty being named as full-time principal starting the 2011-2012 school year. As most new teachers, my first full year of teaching felt overwhelming at times, but I loved every ounce of my job, largely because of the morale and positivity Brendan brought to the building. My school year ended with a pink slip, and the reduction of 19 other educators in the building. It was my worst nightmare.
I ended up spending the next seven years teaching in Hooksett. See, the perception of many is that Hooksett is a much better place to teach. I was greeted by many with, “Wow, you must be glad to be here, after Manchester!!” The truth was, I wasn’t. As the years went on in Hooksett, my love for teaching began to fade, too. I began questioning if teaching was really for me anymore… until June of 2019 when I noticed an English position had been posted at my old stomping grounds, Hillside. Following the process of applying and interviewing, Brendan called me and said, “It’s time for you to come home.”
Last year was my first year back at Hillside, and it reignited my love of teaching. Hillside made me remember all of the important things about teaching and that, while test scores are important, the well being of our students is more important. The morale in our building, even during remote learning, is positive. Although we can’t have staff gatherings, Brendan and administrative staff have found other ways to keep things cheerful, with endless stops from the Hawk Express just being the icing on the cake.
I’ve heard many complaints about Mr. McCafferty, all from people who have never stepped foot in our building. They haven’t seen what a wonderful leader he is for our Hillside community, the changes he’s made, the way he has lifted morale, the endless hours of overtime he works for our students.
The truth is, if I could teach anywhere, I’d pick Hillside a million times over. Brendan has reminded me of the true meaning of being a teacher. He reignited my love of my job and continues to remind all of us at Hillside, that we are valuable

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