Westland Elementary celebrates 50 yearsDec 04, 2022 11:36AM ● By Jet Burnham
By Jet Burnham | [email protected]
The 50th Homecoming celebration of Westland Elementary was a success, said Crystal Whitehead, who organized the event.
“We had a great turnout,” she said. “I think it was beyond a lot of people's expectations. We had a lot of past and current teachers, alumni and a lot of the community.”
There were many happy reunions between teachers, students and community members.
Former kindergarten teacher Rebecca Shaefer talked and laughed with both former students and former colleagues, reminding her of how much she loved being part of the Westland Elementary community.
“This school is a home, there’s a general sense of community,” she said.
Jessica Hayes taught at Westland for 18 years. When she left four years ago, she said it was the hardest move she’s ever had to make in her career.
Many of the teachers who attended the homecoming event, held Nov. 10, expressed how special the community at Westland was and still is. Many of them brought their own children to Westland to be taught by their colleagues.
“Teachers bring their kids because they know they’ll be taught by good people,” said Jane Smith, who has been teaching for seven years at Westland. She loves the small staff that is close, the school programs and traditions.
Melanie (Bush) Mosley has many good memories from her time as a student at Westland in the 1980s. She fondly remembers the husband and wife who were the school custodians and gave students a soda for helping to put away folding chairs. One of her teachers was her neighbor, which made her feel safe at school.
The school was originally built with an open classroom design and Mosley remembers the year that partitions were constructed to close off the classroom. Her children now attend the school, and she was able to show them her school pictures from the yearbooks on display at the Homecoming event.
Three of the Blackham children who attended Westland— Trevin (age 18) Ali (age 23) and CarliAnn (age 16)— came to see the school, catch up with teachers and peruse the old yearbooks.
CarliAnn loved her teacher Ms. Howell, who she had in both fourth and sixth grade. She said Howell did a lot of science experiments, which sparked her interested in science. She is now taking biotechnology and medical forensics classes at Jordan Academy for Technology and Careers.
Ali remembers many art projects, singing in the school choir and helping in the lunchroom.
Their mother, Bethany Blackham, transferred her kids to Westland for the ALPS program, which challenged her gifted children and provided them opportunities to participate in competitions. The school also provided support for her child who has dyslexia. She was impressed by the culture—there were lots of family activities, students were well-behaved and the school staff members truly cared about the students. She said the office workers knew every kid and Mr. V, the principal, (David Vicchrilli) popped into every classroom every day to say hi to the kids.
Whitehead said some families from nearby West Jordan Elementary attended the event to get a feel for the school their children may be sent to when their school is closed or rebuilt.
“They just wanted to check out the school,” Whitehead said.
Past and current teachers agreed among themselves that anyone transferring from West Jordan Elementary to Westland Elementary will love it.
The celebration of Westland’s 50 years isn’t over yet. Whitehead collected memories from past students and staff, which she’ll be compiling into a scrapbook and sharing in upcoming school newsletters. She will also be putting together a 50th anniversary school cookbook.