A Student’s Farewell Retirement Speech to Principal Brett Blanchard


Leah Fitzgerald gives Brett Blanchard’s retirement farewell speech at the BFA end-of-year faculty luncheon. Photo credit: Theresa Callan

Leah Fitzgerald, Contributor

Administrative Assistant to the Principal, Theresa Callan, asked Leah Fitzgerald (’24) if she would be interested in speaking at Brett Blanchard’s retirement gathering as a leader of the Student Voice Committee that he created and is so proud of.  Here is Leah’s speech:

Hello all and happy summer. I am so happy to be here, and honored to give Mr. Blanchard’s retirement speech in front of you all today. It is a privilege to feel as secure and prepared as I do now, knowing I have a great role model to show me how it’s done. 

Now, after I excitedly accepted the offer to give this speech, I did what any good student would do, and immediately Google searched “what to say when giving a retirement speech?”

That Google search didn’t get me very far- as I am not the one that is retiring’- not yet.. ‘so I  refined’ -How to give retirement speech to boss?  What to say when boss is retiring? These were also quite jarring results- so I settled on the results from- what to say when a leader is retiring- these felt more promising.

In my findings- the speech should list leaders ENTIRE  life story- schooling- – jobs- accomplishments -morals- lessons, stories and a well wish into the future- seems doable?

However, my second issue was- You actually did not know more than just a few odds and ends about Mr. Blanchard’s life- which surprised me being I have seen him every week for the past two years. So I went back to the drawing board —(Google) —and began connect the odds and ends of information I have picked up over the years, so, to give it it’s due diligence Brett Blanchard – received his  B.A in history from Westminster College as well as a Master’s in Educational Leadership through Castleton-spent 14 years as a Dean of Students at Poultney High School, 11 years as a principal at Fair Haven High School, another two years as principal at Jaffrey-Rindge Middle School and best for last- three years here at Bellows Free Academy. 

On paper- the overwhelming time and dedication to education-and the school system is apparent- the commitment and passion is seen through countless years and careers of Mr. Blanchard’s life; however, a simple transcript cannot quantify the endless programs, initiatives and legacies that were created throughout his career.

In looking deeper into the anecdotal evidence of this, I found that every single article- letter- or blog post  points me to a teacher- mentor and coach, that cares so deeply about uplifting students and empowering their voices. To one that consistently looks to improve upon the environment for all that surrounds it, and one that is dedicated and determined to his craft. 

However, THAT is something I already knew, and have been privileged to see first hand as a part of the student voice, and throughout the past three years. 

Although his time here at BFA was short,  a lot has happened in three years- whether it feels to be a lifetime for some, or like me- the blink of an eye – it is safe to say many things have grown and developed over these three years.  Of course,  I must bring up Covid as the first huge obstacle that greeted Mr. Blanchard at BFA’s door, along with the ever changing social, political and economical developments that we all have experienced in the past years. 

But I say with confidence that it is through his strong leadership and determination that institutions such as BFA go forth in meaningful action and transformation. Pablo Picasso says that “great things are done by a series of small things put together”- thank you Mr. Blanchard for leading and assisting in all the small things that make BFA so great- for it is the strongest of leaders, that do not create more followers, but create more leaders. And I hope to be proof of that. 

In learning lots about human development throughout my studies  – I have learned a key determinant of success in young adult life is having positive role models- as a student- with acknowledging my privileges as such – I am beyond grateful speak to the fact of his tremendous influence and guidance as that role model for me- as well as many others in BFA, and other school system throughout. 

A story I wish to share is a fond memory, that I hold very close, it comes in small black print, in an intricate scroll… It is a letter that I actually brought here with me today, and by intricate scroll- I mean intricate as in loopy- and scroll as  to chicken scratch- as I felt like a graphologist trying to decode this-thankfully it is only two sentences long, and at the end of the letter, before signing off it reads-  “you will improve the world around you” – and that is something much greater than words.

Now, unbeknownst to you Mr. Blanchard, or for anyone to that matter, it was that same week in receiving the letter- I struggled to support my sister as she severely grappled with her mental health as a freshman in college, far away in the capital of the US, thus requiring both my mother and father to travel 400 miles away for weeks at a time. In those weeks I missed days of school, stopped doing track, saw my grades slip, yet found the  comfort and solace in coming to school and “improving the world” – that was around me -at that moment- and felt inspired to live up to my newly found- world changing- aspiration. For my purpose then was to improve what I could- and by empowering others- I then could empower myself. 

My sister, in recovery, is making great strides and I actually just got home from being with her last night.  I believe this is one of the largest lesson Mr. Blanchard has taught me and those around him- to strive for obtainable excellence through continual improvement- to lead by example, with grace and conviction. To not be afraid to make changes, or rely on help to do so. 

Whether it be a state, district or school, a department, a classroom, or even a single student, I wish we may all improve the worlds around us, to be inspired to inspire others, and to lead as our  leaders have shown us. 

Mr. Blanchard I wish you all the joy in all the worlds you have yet to improve- although I have found it hard to find a place you have not been. I must admit my favorite Google finding was that of “www.brettblanchard.org” where I learned that you ran a 64 mile race  in -20 degree weather – that only 20% of racers actually finished.  Upon reading that first  statement I thought- what an over achiever- I bet he finishes it with ease.  And to no surprise at all you did, so, to the canyons in Utah, outbacks of Australia, the lakes in Mongolia, or the tallest peaks of the North Pole, Mr. Blanchard, I wish you nothing less than an amazing retirement that is so very well deserved. Thank you so much for having me. It is my pleasure to be here today.