NORTH ADAMS — Students and staff at Brayton Elementary School were encouraged this week to be the type of person they would be thankful for.
On Monday, the school held a "Brayton Celebration," which is put together every other month or so, to highlight efforts among staff and students under a certain theme. This month, the Brayton community highlighted the themes of giving thanks and leadership, with the help of a special guest — U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Michael McCarron.
A city resident, longtime automotive teacher at the Charles H. McCann Technical School, and husband to Brayton fourth-grade teacher Marie McCarron, he returned on the eve of Veterans Day from a nearly year-long tour in Afghanistan. This was his fourth tour of overseas service; the previous three were in Iraq.
While McCarron received certificates, songs, and various words of thanks for his role in military service, he thanked staff and students for their ongoing support of troops.
Last year, the students of first-grade teachers Jackie Thomas and Elizabeth Patenaude regularly sent care packages of cards, candy and other items and mementos to the troops of the 389th Combat Sustainment Support Battalion headquartered at Bagram Airfield, where McCarron was stationed.
In return, McCarron ensured that all the troops there received some of the items and made the time to individually respond to the school children. He also gave the school a framed certificate and flag that was flown on Sept. 11 of this year over their base.
"It was important that everybody got a letter back, because it was a big help. A lot of soldiers don't get anything sent to them. It's especially tough this time of year and around Christmastime," said McCarron, who was once himself stationed abroad during the holidays.
He told the students that anyone can be a superstar or a hero if they make an effort and care about what they do.
"That's what it's all about," he said. "You need to think real hard, have a plan and reach high goals — goals that you set for yourself."
"The people who win the Super Bowl or the World Series or go to the moon, they're just like you," he said.
Teacher Marie McCarron said that she hopes that students gain a sense of leadership from participating in activities and events like the above.
"I hope they learn to be compassionate and empathetic and see that they need to be thankful and think of others before themselves," she said.
This year, Brayton has implemented a schoolwide character development program called "Leader in Me," based on of a national model. Brayton, along with other northern Berkshire County students, will also be learning about empathy through "Walk in My Shoes," an exhibit at Kidspace at the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art.
Judy Wyman, an aide at the school, regularly honors student achievement with certificates known as "Judy Awards" and fifth-grade teacher Lisa Tanner promotes "GratiTuesdays," during which students perform random acts of kindness and show their gratitude for people's work in the school. Both staff and students also are acknowledged by the principal and other staff during other Brayton Celebrations.
"It's important to think this week about why we have these days off from school and why we should be thankful," Principal John Franzoni said during Monday's assembly.
He also thanked in particular the school's staff for their work in school and additional volunteerism.
And he then told the students, "I hope you take time this week to say thank you to people who are important to you."