Cottage Hill Elementary dedicates library to former teacher |

Cottage Hill Elementary dedicates library to former teacher

Cottage Hill Elementary School recently dedicated its new library to Janice Salvetti, who taught in the Pleasant Ridge Union Elementary School District for seventeen years.
Submitted Photo |

Janice Salvetti spent 17 years advocating for students as a teacher in the Pleasant Ridge Union School District; she joined the staff of the no-longer-operational Pleasant Ridge Elementary School in 1997 and taught there for 13 years, and then spent four years teaching fourth grade at Cottage Hill Elementary School.

Even after being diagnosed with colon cancer, Salvetti maintained her dedication to her classroom.

“That was her joy and that was her happiness and that’s where she wanted to be, teaching and inspiring kids,” said Suzanne MacTaggart, who teaches third grade at Cottage Hill and spent many years working alongside Salvetti in the school district.

After battling the disease for several years, Salvetti died in the summer of 2014 at the age of 58 — but her connection to her students and contributions to the school district have not been forgotten. The district recently dedicated the new library at Cottage Hill to Salvetti with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 8.; a bronze plaque bearing Salvetti’s name will hang outside the building.

“She was just one of those people that was just always incredibly gracious and calm, but with a twinkle in her eye.”District Board President Lauretta Muzio

District Board President Lauretta Muzio said board members decided that dedicating the library — a previously vacant building on campus that was re-purposed over the summer — to Salvetti would be a perfect way to honor her memory.

“She was just one of those people that was just always incredibly gracious and calm, but with a twinkle in her eye,” said Muzio.

That personality made her an extremely successful teacher, her former coworkers said. Salvetti had a steady strength that commanded respect as well as a fun, creative side that helped foster positive relationships with her students.

In the classroom, she’d tape butcher paper to the underside of her students’ desks so the kids could recreate the way Michelangelo painted the Sistine Chapel ceiling, or she’d take her students to Italy for a lesson, asking them to create passports and rearranging the classroom chairs to replicate the seating on a plane.

“She was really outgoing with kids,” said Kim Davis, a third grade teacher at Cottage Hill who worked with Salvetti at both Cottage Hill and Pleasant Ridge elementary schools. “They would come back and help her in the classroom, and she would always converse with them.”

Throughout her career, Salvetti had a knack for appreciating each of her students as individuals, said Roxanne Fleenor, another of Salvetti’s former coworkers who teaches Transitional Kindergarten at Cottage Hill.

Fleenor remembered a student who transferred to Pleasant Ridge and was in Salvetti’s class. The girl had facial deformities, and had undergone several surgeries to help try to correct them. Fleenor said her daughter, who was in Salvetti’s class at the time, told Fleenor how welcome and accepted Salvetti made the student feel.

That wasn’t uncommon, Fleenor said.

“I bet if you asked any child [about Salvetti], they would say, ‘She loved me,’” Fleenor said. “That was a strength of hers, and not every child can say that about their teacher.”

To her fellow teachers, Salvetti was a trusted confidant, quick to share lesson ideas or strategies; she would leave her signature smiley face on notes to colleagues — two dots for eyes, with a “V” for a mouth, Davis remembered.

Even after her cancer diagnosis, she didn’t immediately disclose her illness to many of her coworkers, and never let any of the pain she was feeling affect her persona in the classroom.

“She didn’t want that attention that she wasn’t feeling well or wasn’t doing well,” MacTaggart said.

She kept her focus on her family, still finding time to take her father out to lunch or dote on her young granddaughter, who “was the hope and the light that kept her going.” MacTaggart said.

Salvetti’s granddaughter was on hand during the dedication ceremony, as were her two sons, her husband and several other members of her family.

Salvetti’s son Domenico Salvetti, 31, called the dedication “humbling.”

“We didn’t solicit it in any way and to have it come from them was very meaningful for us,” he said. “We always saw how much she cared for her students and for doing that job. To see that other people kind of appreciated it as well was very touching.”

It’s fitting that the library will bear Salvetti’s name, said her former coworkers — she loved literature and encouraged creative writing from her students.

They noted, however, that Salvetti would be taken back by the honor; it was never her style to take center stage or seek the spotlight.

“I think she’d cry,” Davis said.

“I know she’d be embarrassed,” MacTaggart added.

“She would,” Davis agreed. “But she would be touched.”

To contact Staff Writer Emily Lavin email or call 530-477-4230.

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