A Special Goodbye To Mrs. Fortier <3

Sarah Underkofler (she/her/hers)

A+Special+Goodbye+To+Mrs.+Fortier+

It’s not often that I’m at a loss for words. But when I received the email that Mrs. Fortier was leaving, I can admit that I both lost my breath and shed a few (okay, maybe more than a few) tears. Mrs. Fortier was not just another teacher; she was a great friend, a passionate supporter, a trustworthy confidant, a talented educator, and so much more. I wish I could express my feelings as deeply and intricately as they feel, but there are only so many words in the English language that do Mrs. Fortier justice.

I think I first officially met Mrs. Fortier when I was the only freshman (or sophomore) to attend the Save More Kids club that met at lunchtime in her room. I was terrified to enter because that was where the scary juniors and seniors went not just for English, but to hang out. As I walked in, I was shaking so violently I almost spilled my lunch. But as I looked up, Mrs. Fortier made a sweeping motion (as she tends to do) and shouted, “Hey!!! We got a freshman!!” Everyone started cheering and jumped up to immediately clear off the only desk left. We worked together organizing the Book Launch, exchanging ideas, and getting to know more about each other, before I was placed in her Sophomore English class the next year, where I was once again terrified (because word gets around when you’re a tough grader).

As the class evolved, I began to learn something different, and unique about Mrs. Fortier: she cares. She cares about you, your interests, your ideas, your passions, your activities, and she demonstrates that rare gift with every student she teaches. When we had to cover grammar topics, easily the most boring part of class, she would offer us the Brownie Challenge: she would agree to bake brownies for the whole class if each of us was able to write a correct sentence or phrase using the grammar concept. It was a group effort, with my peers and I checking and double-checking each other’s work so thoroughly that it took the entire class when she had originally planned for it to last no more than 15 minutes. Her caring personality carried into her meetings with students; she loved to meet with us when we were stressed or scared about our essays because she understood that 90% of the time we just needed to talk and talk and talk before we finally understood what we were trying to prove – often without Mrs. Fortier ever saying a word. As we read WITNESS, “Macbeth,” How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents, and many more texts, she lit the path for us to ask burning questions, make mistakes, and fumble over ourselves while we searched for answers to rich and complicated questions. Her door was always open (both literally and figuratively), whether it was to ask a question related to a book or essay, to simply stop by and ask for advice, to tell her about your new curricular or extracurricular activities, or to just rant.

When the Covid-19 pandemic hit and we were forced to shift to online learning both last year and at the beginning of this year, Mrs. Fortier accomplished perhaps the most difficult task of online teaching: she kept us engaged. Through her confident and positive attitude, her innovative projects and collaborations, and loyal cup of coffee and frequent visits from her trusty canine sidekick Peat, she became the light for many of us during such an unknown and erratic time. I can honestly say that her excitement, energy, and positivity were more than likely the only things that kept me going through quarantine. I always looked forward to our class, counting down the hours until I was able to log into our close-knit community where we were free — rather, encouraged — to discuss and debate.

This year, I was ecstatic to learn that Mrs. Fortier would continue teaching APLAC; sure enough, she did not disappoint. Although the workload was hefty and my brain often felt fried by the end of class, she pushed us to dig deep into the literature. However, digging deep did not mean there was only one correct answer; in fact, there was never only one right answer. We were free to share without fear of criticism, rebuke, or denial. We tackled difficult topics as well as undergoing ruthless preparation for the AP exam, but I can speak for the entire class when I say that we enjoyed every minute of it, and became more complex and experienced students as a result. 

If Mrs. Fortier had not been my teacher, friend, life advisor, and listener, I firmly believe that I would not have made it through the past three years. She is truly one-in-a-million. Mrs. Fortier, I hope that you know your contagious laugh, your gentle and encouraging teaching style, your genuine care and concern for both your students and fellow teachers, and your never-ending involvement in clubs and activities will forever be missed. From your emails just asking how I was or telling me how proud you were of some small feat I accomplished, to the late nights Unleashed spent checking and double-checking every article to ensure everything was perfect, I am going to miss you beyond words. You have left perhaps the biggest shoes to fill, and it will not be easy getting through senior year without your presence and support. But I am beyond excited for your new adventures waiting for you in Maine, and I know that (as long as there isn’t another pandemic, God willing) you will be back to visit. Because Bancroft just wouldn’t be Bancroft without you.

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