Woman to watch for March 2: Ms. Gagnon
The Lancer Spirit is celebrating the women of Londonderry during the month of March in honor of Women’s History Month. For each day of the month, LSO will be highlighting an inspiring woman within the Londonderry community who has demonstrated strong leadership and influential behavior.
Today’s “Woman to Watch” is LHS psychology teacher Ms. Gagnon.
Psychology teacher Ms. Gagnon has been influencing Londonderry community members since she was a star athlete at LHS in the 80’s.
During her time in the Londonderry schools, she had two teachers who took her under their wings and made her feel special. These teachers made her also want to be a teacher.
“When I went to North School, my fifth grade teacher, Miss Miklave, was my favorite,” Gagnon said. “I loved the way she taught, and she was just a fun person. In high school, I had another teacher named Miss Agati, who really inspired me to teach.”
Now, Gagnon uses her “teacher wings” to teach her current students how to fly.
Gagnon has been teaching at LHS for 24 years, and she is the only psychology teacher. At first, she didn’t like teaching psychology because it’s more science than social studies based.
“Once I got into it, I found it absolutely fascinating,” Gagnon said. “It’s always changing, and there’s always new research on brains. I’m always learning something new from students asking questions, which forces me to research.”
Gagnon loves teaching psychology now, and students enjoy taking her class.
“When you walk into psychology class,” senior Jess Paul said, “you never know what is going to happen. It’s exciting to have Ms. Gagnon as a teacher because she makes learning so much fun.”
This classroom fun includes creating brain hats and personality masks. She also has her students wear perception goggles and then try to catch a green fuzzy ball with their vision changed.
“Some of my most fun days are when we’re doing the perception goggles,” Gagnon said. “I love seeing how students react with having their world changed visually and seeing some of the silly things that go on. I’ve hit kids on the head by accident with a ball that they were supposed to catch or they don’t catch. Sometimes they can’t find the objects on the floor, which is funny. It’s fun, but they’re also learning something. I enjoy that unit and it happens every semester, so I get to enjoy it multiple times.”
Gagnon said she likes to make her lessons as interesting as possible.
“I’ve sat in so many classes over the years and have been bored to death,” Gagnon said. “If I’m having fun and making my course enjoyable for students, they’re going to remember the information better than if they just sit and listen while taking notes. Class has to have a life of its own.”
Students may be familiar with some of Gagnon’s funny phrases she says during class:
She says, “For the love of Pete,” when technology isn’t working.
She calls little kids “Smurfs.”
“Dead dudes” is what she calls the unit about major psychologists.
Lastly, when Gagnon hears something bad, she’ll say, “Woof.”
In addition to making sure her class is enjoyable, Gagnon also thinks it’s important to let students know she cares about them and not just about her subject matter.
“Teaching is more than just spewing out information,” Gagnon said. “It’s cultivating a culture of caring and nurturing of the whole student.”
Every day, Gagnon tries to look around the class to see if someone is upset or tired and asks if they are okay.
“Sometimes I have laughed a lot with students, but I have also cried with them as I help them work through life struggles,” said Gagnon.
Students like senior J. Demeo are someone who has felt cared for by Gagnon.
“I love Ms. Gagnon because of the way she cares about her students,” Demeo said. “Whenever I had a rough day, she would sense it and
talk to me about what was wrong until I felt better.”
When Gagnon’s not teaching about the ins and outs of the brain, she’s hanging out with her son Matthew, three cats Maggie, Mel, and Maya, and her favorite cow, who she visits often.
Matthew is an eighth grader at LMS and plays lacrosse, basketball, and golf. He and his mom like to go ice fishing, deep sea fishing,and freshwater fishing together. Some days after school, Gagnon will play basketball or football with Matthew, and since they are both into the Celtics right now, they recently went to a game.
“Matt and I are very close,” Gagnon said. “He’s a pretty neat kid with such a diverse interest in activities. He is fun to be around, and he’s the best company I could have.”
It’s no surprise Gagnon’s son would be interested in sports because when she attended LHS, she played three varsity sports and was the first girl to make it onto the Lions Cup team in 1986. She also played in the Boston Garden with assistant principal Katie Sullivan back in high school.
“Sports truly made up my identity back in school,” Gagnon said. “It was cool to be the only girl in my senior class who played three sports. In my yearbook, I also got “the most athletic” title for my grade.”
Gagnon also won the New England three-on-three college basketball tournament, and also went to college on a soccer scholarship.
“I just liked being active and always doing something,” Gagnon said. “My parents’ rules were to play a sport or get a job, so at least I didn’t have to work. I grew up in a neighborhood of all boys, which influenced my athletics.”
Another interest Gagnon has is cows. In fact, Gagnon travels to a farm in Goffstown once a week with Matt to visit a cow named Vincent. She is fascinated with Jersey cows because they tend to have fluffier hair, and she has wanted a brown cow named Sally since she was little.
“I get really excited when there’s a new baby calf, and I take lots of pictures,” Gagnon said. “There’s just something about them that makes them so cute and cuddly.”
Aside from teaching and spending time with Matthew and cows, Gagnon has a special talent that others–like all her Facebook friends and teacher friends–have come to rely on: She is a great predictor of the weather.
“Predicting the weather is just something I do for fun,” Gagnon said. “I truly enjoy competing with local forecasters to see who gets the snow forecasts right.”
Need to know if a snow day is coming up? Go ask Gagnon. She will fill you in. She is a certified weather spotter. Students and teachers will often poke their heads through the door and ask her about the weather. She has become more accurate over the past several years and now has a following on Facebook amongst teachers in the building who count on her forecast for snow day alerts.
“We call her ‘Brickstorm Gagnon,'” business teacher Mrs. Young said. “She’s our go-to girl. You know there’s a snow day coming when she predicts it, and we all get excited to look at her page. Not only is she accurate and provides up-to-date information, but you also get her sense of humor along with the weather information. Her comments are so funny.”
From her weather predictions to her teaching style, Gagnon has reached a great deal of people over the years.
“Students go off to college and thank me,” Gagnon said. “The ones that get to me are the ones who I didn’t think I had made an impact on, or kids I thought didn’t connect with much. They will send me messages thanking me and that makes me want to keep teaching.”
Her advice to students?
“You only get one shot at your life,” Gagnon said.”Dream BIG! Shoot for the stars! Always remember to live, love, and laugh each and every day!”
Words from Gagnon’s students:
“Ms. Gagnon is able to make Psychology understandable by applying it to real life and with fun activities. She may steal my chips and water bottle during class, but in the end, she gives me knowledge in return.”
-senior Samantha Heinrich
“Ms. Gagon makes learning fun. She makes us laugh without even trying, and you can really tell she is dedicated to her students.”
-senior Kate Ehl
“Every time I would walk into Gagnon’s class, she would make a joke about me sleeping during class. Anytime sleep was mentioned during class, she would jokingly point at me. She never got mad at me, and she was a really chill teacher.”
-senior Teresa Radzelovage
“While she always called me out for talking during class and making a fool out of myself, she made the classroom a comfortable place to be myself, learn, and grow as a person. I thank her for always letting me go to the vending machine before class. She’s a wonderful person, and I enjoyed being in her class. Everyday, I learned a lot about not only psychology, but a lot about myself.”
-graduate Zach St. Hilaire
“Ms. Gagnon is one of my favorite teachers because she is always so approachable. She can always tell when your day is off and is able to make your day better every time.”
-senior Erin Batchelor
“Gagnon is one-hundred percent the best teacher and most caring teacher I’ve had since I entered Londonderry High School.”
-senior Josh Hogan
“Ms. Gagnon is very supportive in and out of the classroom. She is always eager to help out students and is very kind and funny. She truly is a great teacher to have.”
-graduate Brenna Gustitus
“Ms. Gagnon is an awesome teacher. She always encourages us to do our best on tests, presentations, or even in our personal lives. She’s always there for everyone and she’s a friendly face in the halls who greets all her students.”
-senior Taylor Palmer