TEWKSBURY — A long-time Tewksbury Public Schools educator is being honored by her friends through the establishment of a memorial scholarship fund. Elaine Fiske, who passed away in July, is being remembered for her dedication and kindness, and for the example she set for others.
Fiske taught at the Heath Brook Elementary School from 1969-2004, teaching both 2nd and 3rd grade for 35 years. Former Heath Brook colleagues have no end of praise for Fiske, citing her spirit and “zest for life,” as described by longtime friend Karen Hatch LeClair.
“She was an exemplary and dedicated teacher. Teachers in the next grades could always tell which students had Mrs. Fiske the year before. Her children were well prepared and had a great work ethic. She taught the curriculum thoroughly, always encouraging her students to take responsibility for themselves and to do the right thing,” said friend and coworker Brenda McWilliams, herself a teacher for 42 years.
Parent Pat Whitehouse said, “she was small in stature but large in the energy she brought into the Heath Brook School every day.”
Former Heath Brook principal Kevin McArdle shared, “Elaine Fiske was a beloved teacher.”
McWilliams and LeClair said Fiske loved organizing field trips for her students. Her teaching units included favorites such as the "Nutcracker" and "The History of Lowell." The children would read the books and study the history of the ballet or the City of Lowell, then enjoy the activities which culminated in her ever-popular field trips.
Part of Fiske’s lesson for her students, according to LeClair, was wearing neat clothing and being on their best behavior.
Whitehouse recalled, “I was fortunate to chaperone one of these trips and watched as the students marveled at the beauty of the Wang theatre and experienced the wonder of the amazing Nutcracker ballet. It will surely be an event that is remembered by all students who were fortunate to be a part of Elaine Fiske’s life.”
The arts were a passion and Fiske would look for grants to underwrite the trips. She wanted opportunity for all.
Several former students recalled Fiske’s love of holidays, and shared their memories: “Halloween always reminds me of Mrs. Fiske’s class. She would decorate the classroom spooky for pretty much all of October, and we all loved it. Great memories!”
“Mrs. Fiske would wear two different colored contact lenses at Halloween and we all thought she was a witch!!”
Whitehouse added, “It seemed she had a different Halloween outfit for every day in October! Her students couldn’t wait to go to school to see what she was wearing that day!! And her classroom decorations would rival any ‘Spirit’ store out there today!” Fiske also organized exciting field trips for the teachers, including memorable shows at the Wang Theater with dinner at the North End and trips to Mike's Pastry. She cherished the school environment and the camaraderie with her colleagues.
Fiske challenged her children to be the very best they could be and "go that extra mile" according to her fellow teachers. She did the same for herself, often working at school until 8 or 9 p.m., planning and correcting. She had high expectations and strove to help her students achieve and never give up.
Former student Tracy (Luken) Holden remembers Fiske as one of her favorite teachers.
“She ran a tight ship and was strict, but she made me want to go to school. It’s clear she loved her job and loved the kids,” said Holden.
LeClair reflected that, as a coworker, Fiske made work a joy, keeping in touch with retirees, recognizing births and special life events, and always thinking of others, despite her own issues. LeClair said that Fiske was challenged with physical ailments, but one would never know it, and instead she was remembered as one who focused on the needs of others.
LeClair said that Fiske did not want pity.
“She never complained regardless of how much pain she was in,” said LeClair.
LeClair and McWilliams said that even after retirement, Fiske continued to be involved in Health Brook School activities. She volunteered in the classrooms reading books and bringing projects, crafts and treats for the children. Fiske was always devoted to her students.
According to her obituary, Fiske was predeceased by her husband and had no children of her own. Friends say she was a devoted caretaker to her husband and later her brother. Fiske was described as a cat lover as well.
“Her legacy is an example for future teachers,” said LeClair.
Fiske refused a retirement party and was humble by nature.
“She led in a quiet way,” said LeClair.
LeClair has established a scholarship fund in her memory, hoping to benefit a 2021 graduate of TMHS seeking to study education.
For those wishing to contribute to the scholarship fund in memory of Elaine Fiske, the contact person is Karen (Hatch) LeClair, retired Heath Brook teacher at 978-256-8686. Checks may be made payable to “TPS Scholarship Fund” and please indicate "Fiske Scholarship" in the memo line.
Mail to Tewksbury Memorial High School 320 Pleasant Street Tewksbury, MA 01876 Attn: Mrs. Patricia Whitehouse.