SOUTH PLAINFIELD, NJ – Chants of ‘Mrs. Pelton’ filled the cafeteria of Franklin Elementary School May 26 as students, staff, and a large group of parents gathered for a surprise assembly honoring their longtime teacher. Rose Marie Pelton, who welcomed her first kindergarten class 40 years ago, will retire at the end of the 2016-2017 school year.

Pelton entered the Franklin cafeteria to a standing ovation and chants of her name. The students joined together, singing a special tune written by music teacher Glenn Parisi and a video slideshow followed. Pelton was also presented with a ‘wish jar’ filled with good luck sentiments from her Franklin family.

The Franklin PTO also honored Pelton, presenting her with a scrapbook filled with dozens of photographs from the past 40 years as well as dedicating the area immediately in front of her classroom as ‘Rose’s Garden.’

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“On behalf of the PTO, I’d like to thank Mrs. Pelton for her 40 awesome years. She has touched so many lives; not only at Franklin but throughout the community. She is not only a teacher but a kind-hearted person,” said Franklin PTO co-President Kristen (Linczyk) Celentano who had Pelton in 1985 and whose sons also had her.

“Franklin is not just a school, it is a family and Mrs. Pelton the center of the heart. She is going to be missed tremendously… It is my honor to present to you, ‘Rose’s Garden,” said Celentano.

Pelton began her teaching career in 1975 and served two years as a first grade teacher in Cranford before taking on a kindergarten position with South Plainfield Schools. Back in 1977, kindergarten was half-day and for the first three years of her tenure with the district, Pelton split her time between Franklin and Kennedy Elementary schools. She has resided in South Plainfield for 55 years, relocating to the borough from Rahway after getting married.

“Mrs. Pelton has dedicated over 40 years to educating children. She is tireless in providing children what they need to be successful in their educational growth,” said Franklin Principal Ralph Errico, adding, “… I’ve worked with Mrs. Pelton for only six years but have gained such a respect for what she accomplishes with her students and the amount of time and effort she puts into every one of her students.”

Errico added, “Mrs. Pelton will be sorely missed not just by me, but by the staff, students, community, and South Plainfield.”

“Mrs. Pelton is one of the most dedicated teachers I know. She loves her job. She loves the children and truly enjoys coming to work each day…She was truly in education for all the right reasons,” said Franklin teacher Laurie Venetucci, who has been working in kindergarten with Pelton for the past eight years and whose two sons had Pelton as a teacher.

“We have worked so well planing our lessons and our activities together,” said Venetucci. “She has become more than a colleague to me, she has been a friend and a mother-figure…I will miss her energy and her positivity.”

Over the course of four decades, Pelton has welcomed hundreds of kindergartners to Room #5 at Franklin Elementary School each September, many who have went on to have children of their own enrolled in her class.

Jennifer (Siegel) Luersen had Pelton in 1982 and her children, Ryan, now a fifth grader at Grant, and daughter Emily, a third grader at Franklin, also had her for kindergarten. “She truly was my favorite teacher in all my years in South Plainfield and it was so heartwarming to see my children sit in the same class where I sat nearly 30 years before them,” said Luersen.

Brian Wilson, a resident who had Pelton during the 1988-1989 school year and whose son Josh had her in 2014-2015, added, “Mrs. Pelton is one of the rare teachers that you can never forget throughout life. She is going to be greatly missed…”

Franklin art teacher Jennifer (D'Adezzio) Gil had Pelton in the 80s and, in 2013, her daughter Juliet did as well. “Mrs. Pelton has always had the reputation as being a great educator. Her love for the children as well as her passion for education is evident,” said Gil, adding, “I have fond memories of her as my kindergarten teacher and I was happy when I found out that my daughter was going to have her, too.”

Keri Hannon had Pelton for kindergarten in 1978 and her son, Nicholas, was in her class in 2008. “She has always remembered me through the years and left such a lasting impression on me that I wanted her to teach my son,” said Hannon. “We wish her nothing but the best in her retirement.”

“My memory of Mrs. Pelton is making applesauce in her room! I still remember sitting on her carpet in a circle watching her like it was yesterday,” said Trisha (Zebro) Aiello, noting that she feels fortunate that two of her four children also had the 'opportunity and experience of having such a great, loving, and caring, teacher.’ “They will take with them great memories to treasure forever.”

"Mrs. Pelton has a heart of gold. To her teaching was never a job; it was a passion and joy and she never lost that love for teaching,” added Celentano. “I can still feel that same love and energy when I walk in her room as I did as a child…It is so rewarding to watch her touch so many lives, including mine and my boys, and it is amazing to see how many students in the past remember her as their ‘kindergarten teacher.’”

For Deirdre Marini, the influence Pelton had on her daughter Sarah socially, as well as academically, is something she will never forget. When Sarah had a rough time adjusting to kindergarten, Pelton helped make the transition easier for both mother and child.

“…Mrs. Pelton would comfort her everyday and pushed her through the rough patch. [She] also encouraged me to be strong while Sarah was going through the phase,” said Marini. “As a mom, it was tough seeing Sarah so scared everyday [but] I had the trust that Mrs. Pelton would take care of her … She was a Godsend to us [and] I'll forever be thankful to her.”

Many also have fond memories of Pelton that stem outside of the classroom. Over the years, Pelton, a licensed real estate agent in town, has helped dozens of former students buy and sell their homes. She has also attended birthday parties and other milestone events.

“Mrs. Pelton has always shown her support by attending every event, and [has] always [been] willing to lend a hand and give the honest truth,” said Celentano. “How gratifying it is to be a part of so many lives…She is one in a million and has a heart of gold… Thank you Mrs. Pelton for being an amazing role model.”

“We always kept in touch with her over the years; she even came to many of my birthday parties when I was a child because I just loved her so much…” said Luersen, adding that, when her mother wasn't receiving her Courier News delivery, Pelton would drive over early in the morning and slip her copy in the mailbox.

“We didn't know for months and wondered why some days we got some duplicate papers. We only found out when we were leaving very early for a softball tournament and there she was at 6:30 a.m. sneaking the paper in the driveway,” Luersen said. “She is just such a wonderful woman like that.”

“Mrs. Pelton is one of the rare teachers that you can never forget throughout life. She is going to be greatly missed as a teacher at Franklin,” said Wilson.

Luersen added, “Mrs. Pelton is and always will be such a huge part of Franklin school. I can't imagine anyone else opening that door to let the kindergartners in....”

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