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COMMENTARY: Weston teacher taught her students values worth applauding

Peg Taylor (center) and Homes with Hope President Jeff Wieser with a class on a recent visit to the Gillespie Center in downtown Westport.

Peg Taylor (center) and Homes with Hope President Jeff Wieser with a class on a recent visit to the Gillespie Center in downtown Westport.

Peg Taylor is retiring at the end of this school year. She has been a Teacher of the Year in the Weston system, and she has been an inspiration to her students. But to 35 men and women in the Gillespie Center homeless shelter in downtown Westport, she and her classes have also been chef, server, and friend for the past many years.

Ten times a year, Peg Taylor has instructed her eighth grade classes in the preparation of lasagne, ziti, and chocolate chip cookies, among many other things.

This particular meal, however, ends up going with the classes in a Weston school bus to the Gillespie Center for lunch. Ms. Taylor’s classes dash in to Homes with Hope’s homeless shelter in downtown Westport at noon with a steaming tray of pasta and serve the meal to the assembled crowd waiting for lunch.

Then, in what is as natural as can be, the students sit and visit with the residents of the shelter and “break bread” with them.

Far from an intimidating experience, a typical student reaction came from Victoria, who said, “It was an interesting experience. I enjoyed meeting all those nice people and sharing the food we made in class with them.”

This opportunity to visit with those in our community who are far less fortunate than these students provides benefits for everyone, not least of which is Peg Taylor! This big-hearted woman is a treasure, and all of us at Homes with Hope will miss her regular visits that make it clear that we are all one community, no matter what our circumstance.

Peg has taught in the Weston schools for more than 23 years. Her class, Family and Consumer Sciences, is a staple of the eighth grade curriculum, and her 10 trips a year to the Gillespie Center have introduced more than 4,000 students to the plight of homelessness.

Each visit is preceded by a visit to Peg’s classroom from a staff member of Homes with Hope who tells the students about the agency’s history, current operation and the support that it receives from the town of Weston and many of its residents.

Community service learning opportunities exist for sixth and seventh graders in Peg’s classes as well. Over the years, students have baked for Weston’s Senior Center, created stuffed animals and pillows for the Norwalk Hospital Pediatric Unit, and learned about guiding preschool children at Norfield Nursery School by teaching age-appropriate activities.

The Weston School system is losing a gem this year, and as Peg and her husband look forward to an active retirement, it is worth applauding the values that she has taught a generation of Weston students.

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