NCHS Community Honors Kay Timmis with a Tree Planted in Her Memory


Teachers, students, family and friends of Kay Timmis gathered Thursday afternoon for a tree planting ceremony in her honor, after the longtime New Canaan High School substitute teacher passed away suddenly in January.


The tree planted outside of the library at the high school will honor Timmis’ dedication and time as a substitute teacher. Outside the library is the perfect place, because of her love for reading, learning, and the trails at Waveny Park. Photo by Mackenzie Lewis

The ceremony was held outside the NCHS Library, and those who attended took a moment to remember Timmis as a substitute teacher and how she touched the lives of the NCHS community. Priscilla Schulz, NCHS Physical Education teacher, coach, and longtime friend of Timmis, organized the ceremony along with six other speakers.

NCHS seniors Carly Risom, this year’s recipient of the Kay Timmis Award, and Sean Davidson had kind words to say about Timmis, along with NCHS faculty Lynda Pescatello, Michelle Luhtala, and Lenore Schneider. Timmis’ daughter, Kim, closed the ceremony with a speech.

Throughout the celebration of the life of Timmis, the speakers touched on the joy and kindness of the woman that had touched many lives. Schulz, who has known Timmis since the 1970s, described the substitute teacher as vibrant.

“I’ve been able to teach with Kay and she’s been my sub on occasion and she’s always had such a vibrancy and you know she’s a good spirit,” Schulz said at the beginning of the ceremony. “When she passed away I had no idea she was 82. She had so much energy, which blinded her years, and boy have we missed her.”

Risom and Davidson reflected on times a student when Timmis would come in and substitute their classes.

“Ms. Timmis wasn’t just any substitute teacher,” Risom said. “I remember when she subbed my Bio class my sophomore year, and we decided to listen to somebody’s Spotify playlist while doing a lab. While most substitutes would have immediately shut down the idea, she politely open up one of her books and told us not to play it too loudly.”

For all students at NCHS, Timmis will always be remembered for her charm and smile. Not only did she light up the classroom when she walked into the room, but she also got to know students on a personal level, even if she may only be teaching them for a day. “She took pleasure in watching students evolve, grow, and mature and it is a great shame that she will not see the end of our high school stories, for her own story has come to an unkindly end,” Davidson said.


NCHS senior Sean Davidson, reflected on the times he had Timmis as a substitute teacher. Photo by Mackenzie Lewis

Davidson remembered meeting Timmis during freshman year, and he believes that she has shaped him from the trouble-making and lost 14-year-old he was, to the man he is today. “She treated me with unconditional kindness and encouraged me when others had lost hope,” Davidson said. “Ms. Timmis remained tolerant with my behavior and did not let it define my character in her eyes. She knew how to comfort a trouble child like no other.”

This school year, Davidson had the opportunity to interview Timmis on the art of substitute teacher for the NCHS Courant, the New Canaan High School newspaper. He sat and talked to her for over an hour learning about her history and the many years she spent in the New Canaan Public School system as a substitute teacher.

One important lesson that Davidson took away from the interview with Timmis was the way she treated students and people. “She believed that the way to go by managing a class was not by affective authority, not by controlling the students as other substitutes may have tried out, but by establishing herself as by friends and as an ally of the class,” Davidson remembered. “She made an effort to connect with them. In reflecting on her experience as a substitute teacher [during the interview this school year] she said, ‘I learned that a good substitute teacher is not confrontational, and also has a sense of humor, and above all you must love the children.’”

Pescatello, secretary of the NCHS Main Office and friend of Timmis, spoke about the substitute’s reaction to newspaper article by Davidson. “When a newspaper article was published this year, I remember the time when Sean [Davidson] came up and wanted to interview Kay Timmis and about her time here subbing,” Pescatello said. “She was very embarrassed because she said that all of the substitutes were just as worthy. She was the kind of person who never wanted to draw attention to herself. She was a gracious, kind, and loving person in every way. We will miss her, but I know today she is shining down on us even though she may be a little embarrassed about the attention she is getting.”

Pescatello was thrilled to have the tree behind the library planted in Timmis’ memory. “I just want to say that Kay would be thrilled that this dedication to her is being held in the library and that this tree is being planted in her memory,” Pescatello said. “She loved to read and could always be found [in the library].”

Pescatello shared a poem with the audience, “Trees” by Joyce Kilmer, that she reminded her so much of Timmis:


Trees Joyce Kilmer

Luhtala, NCHS Librarian, also reflected on Timmis and all of the time she spent in the NCHS library. “She always had a book in hand and she was always willing to talk about it,”  Luhtala remembered. “We purchased so many books, and our library is richer because of the titles she selected for us and we value them.”

Although Timmis has touched many lives in the NCHS and New Canaan communities, what people will remember most about her is the welcoming and kindness that she brought everywhere she went. “The bounce in her step, the infectious chuckle, the ready smile, wearing jewelry from remote villages, hook invariably clutched in her hand,” Schneider, NCHS English teacher described Timmis as in her speech to the gathering. “No one snapshot, or even a collage can do justice to our wonderful Kay.”

Timmis’ daughter, Kim, closed the ceremony with final remarks thanking all those of the NCHS community for making her mother’s years in the halls of the high school so special.

“We’re so grateful because we really feel like you all really made her years here, even though they feel like they were abruptly cut short, the most magnificent years because she grew constantly and she was always a learner,” Kim said. “That’s why this tree, in front of the library, which was a passion of hers, reading and learning, and next to her beloved Waveny which you do usually see her with her headphones darting off between her free for a walk. Some of her favorite things are remembered this way and it’s really special.”

One thought on “NCHS Community Honors Kay Timmis with a Tree Planted in Her Memory

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *