Fran LaPlaca has taught thousands of students in the Fair Haven area. What the kids learn is music, but what they walk away with is so much more.
The banging of the lockers at Fair Haven Union High School can sometimes drown out the more refined sounds in the building.
And in Mrs. LaPlaca's room, music instruction is given to freshman Belle Kidder.
"She's a natural," said Fran.
Fran loves to teach music; in fact it's her life. Some people as they get older find fault with the younger generation, the 78-year-old isn't one of them.
"There are not enough praises for the students," said Fran.
She's been praising kids for a long time. Fran has been a teacher in Fair Haven since 1958.
Reporter Joe Carroll: Oh, you are probably teaching some of their grandchildren?
Fran: Oh yeah! That started many years ago.
For Fran, it's about the students.
Carroll: You don't want to do this interview do you?
Fran: No I don't. I just want to give tribute to all these people.
Fran is well-known in the Fair Haven community, so was her late husband Tom. He was a teacher, vice principal and football coach. He was so respected they named the field after him.
The couple met in college, she was from Albany, N.Y., and he was from West Rutland. They came to the school just after it was built; they were a team, even living next to the school where they raised four children. Tom passed away almost 20 years ago.
"She's in every single yearbook since the school began," said Brent Blanchard, the principal.
But this will be her last yearbook; she will be retiring at the end of the year.
Carroll: It's a battle coming in here every day isn't it?
Fran: It is, yeah.
Fran has ovarian cancer. All of the staff and students know about her illness.
"Just put it out there, there is nothing to keep secrets about cancer," said Fran.
But the side effects of chemo forced the difficult decision to retire. Eric Ramey is not only a co-worker, but was once a student.
"She carries herself with such dignity and pride, she takes on all the challenges that are here in school and her life," said Ramey.
Lindsey Marcy, a junior at Fair Haven, knows what keeps her teacher going.
"That's one of my most favorite things, whenever you are playing she's smiling and no matter if you are doing terrible or you are doing really well, she is just proud of you," said Marcy.
Carroll: You must get a kick out of seeing these students get better and better?
Fran: Oh my goodness, yes!
A yearbook from more than 50 years ago is dedicated to both LaPlacas. She left a quote that still rings true.
"As the path of life lies before you, like a sheet of fresh fallen snow, tread carefully, because every tread will show," recited Fran.
She's a teacher who's guided so many down the right path with dedication and class.
May 14 is Fran's last concert. The school is encouraging former students to show up at the high school to give her a standing ovation.
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