Therese Caccavale, a beloved teacher in the Holliston Public School System who grew the Holliston French Immersion program from the beginning and was with the Holliston schools for 38 wonderful years, passed away on March 5th at Newton-Wellesley Hospital during her ongoing fight against breast cancer.
Mme. Caccavale earned her dual BA in Elementary and French Education at SUNY Cortland in 1975. She went on to earn her MA in French Linguistics from Middlebury College in 1978, and her DEA (Diplôme d’Études Approfondies) from l’Université de Franche-Comté (Besançon, France) in 1978.
After receiving her multiple degrees, in the fall of 1979 she began the French Immersion Program in the Holliston Public Schools. Later in 1998 Mme Caccavale began the Spanish FLES (Foreign Language in Elementary School) Program, which was awarded the Melba D. Woodruff Award for Exemplary Elementary Foreign Language Instruction in 2011 at the ACTFL Convention in Boston, MA.
Madame Caccavale also brought her knowledge to the New York State Foreign Language Teachers Association Conference, where she was the 2009 Keynote Speaker. She was also the Keynote Speaker of the 2012 Massachusetts Foreign Language Association Conference.
More important than her degrees and awards is the love and respect she had from her students and colleagues.
Waddell is in the French Immersion program and was taught by Mme. Caccavale second semester last year. He described her as “caring.”
“She was very passionate I’d say. You could tell that she cared. She didn’t go easy on anyone, but she had a way of going about it where it made you want to work harder and show her you were trying your best,”said Waddell.
She was clearly passionate about the French Immersion program, but also very enthusiastic about teaching directly in the classroom. She pushed and cared for every student, making sure they understood the lessons and stayed after school endlessly to help the students.
Fellow teacher Mme. Nelson described her as “A force of nature. Till the end.”
She said, “ one thing that I have changed in my teaching … that I owe to her, is the understanding that when students read on their own, they focus then on decoding, if they have to read out loud then they can’t understand the text. She made a point of telling me the first year I was teaching here that it was very important to read to the students even at the high school level.”
Mme. Nelson noted that Madame Caccavale was a private person but always was there for her coworkers to share her interesting stories and teaching tactics.
Mme Caccavale, who was diagnosed with breast cancer for the second time in the fall of 2015,was a very busy person, having meetings in the different schools, coming and going to doctors appointments, and teaching her classes.
“I actually got a chance to go to an event with her where she spoke about her situation. We donated a bunch of caps to cancer patients,” Waddell said, adding that “She [Mme Caccavale] was a guest speaker, and she just went through her situation; and you could tell that everyone in the room just loved her energy and loved her perspective on her situation and the situations everyone else was going through in that room.”
Waddell said that during the event “There was a little cat walk show for cancer patients. And she [Mme. Caccavale] was in a dress and she was smiling.”
Madame Caccavale, and the Waddell Family donated around 3,000 caps to the cancer patients undergoing chemo. They were presented after her presentation and catwalk.
Waddell noted that during the presentation Madame filled the room with so much energy and positivity. After the presentation many people went up to talk to her and to thank her.
Assistant Principal Ms. Anne Connoni said that “She was always positive, and caring. Always saying ‘I love you.’”
Her students remember her as a tough teacher, but nurturing at the same time. She wanted to see everyone succeed, and always had a smile on her face, even when she was battling breast cancer.
The Class of 2017 has purchased a star in Mme. Caccavale’s name. This was inspired by Madame Caccavale’s favorite quote in the book “Le Petit Prince” by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry which reads: “In one of those stars I shall be living. In one of them I shall be laughing. And so it will be as if all the stars were laughing, when you look at the sky at night. And when your sorrow is comforted (time soothes all sorrows) you will be content that you have known me. You will always be my friend…I shall not leave you.”
To honor Madame Caccavale, HHS Students are organizing a 2.5 Mile Rail Trail walk to raise funds for the Madame Caccavale Scholarship Fund. This will be held on Saturday, May 13th at 8 a.m.
In loving memory of Madame Caccavale.