It was with sadness that I read about the death of Helen Sokoloski in the Sunday Republican on March 10, but also with a feeling of celebration for her long life and her distinguished career as an educator, spanning 46 years and touching the lives of thousands of students.
Before she worked as a teacher and principal in Naugatuck, Helen taught for 13 years in the town of Prospect, for seven years in the one-room West School on Salem Road and for six years in the new Community School, which opened in 1936. She taught first-second grade, fifth-sixth grade, and seventh-eighth grade, while also serving as the principal in 1940 to 1942.
In 1986 I chaired the committee for the 50th anniversary of Community School and we planned an entire week of programs, climaxed by a banquet and reunion on Friday evening, Nov. 14. We invited the original teachers from 1936 to attend. Helen Hartnett was in a nursing home and I visited her. Mary Roach attended, but Helen was unable to because of eye surgery. Some of us had lunch with her later at the former Sheraton Hotel in Waterbury.
In planning for the 50th anniversary the students in the talented and gifted class researched and put together a program, “This is your life, Prospect Community School,” which was printed in a booklet. Helen was quoted as saying, “I remember having chorus practice with the children in the hallway near the health room. There was a piano. Everyone gathered around to sing while I played the piano.”
The school was designed with the best of “progressive education” in mind, with music, art, drama, physical activity all enriching the studies, and the teachers were well trained to carry out an excellent program of learning. Helen was my teacher in second, fifth, and seventh grades, and she was wonderful. We missed her when she left Prospect in 1942.
Rev. Boardman W. Kathan