Andover students and residents donated more than 200 books to create a special collection at Bancroft Elementary School — Ms. P’s Sunshine Books.
The collection is in honor of Tia Pittounicos, a popular third-grade teacher who died unexpectedly in February when she was 24 years old. At the time she was in the middle of her first year teaching her own class. She had previously been an assistant in a kindergarten class.
Her former students and coworkers all gathered at Bancroft after school Friday for a special celebration to see the new library collection that will be displayed at the front of the library, in a special case for years to come.
The books are a way to celebrate her “extreme happiness and brightness,” Principal Michelle Costa said.
Pittounicos’ favorite flower, sunflowers, adorn the school and T-shirts worn by many. Her fellow educators had “Teach like Tia” written on their shirts, while others wore shirts that reminded people to “Be the sunshine.”
Kristen Ulrich, a speech pathologist at Bancroft, helped organize the celebration for her daughter’s former teacher. When discussing the books with her daughter, she was able to talk about how the educator’s memory will live on through the dedication written into each book.
“Ms. P’s sunshine books are forever here at Bancroft,” Ulrich said, adding when people open up the books they will see “she was truly someone special to have a book dedicated in her name.”
Students will select and switch out the books monthly to display. Each dedicated book also has a description of why it was chosen as the child’s favorite book, which will be displayed as well, said Jen Cann, a Bancroft social worker who is leading the group of students.
Librarian Nancy Snow and parent volunteer Courtney Betts helped organize the book drive at the Andover Bookstore, which had a special shelf all summer dedicated to the effort.
“Miss P. is our inspiration, still to this day. To focus on the good, smile, be kind and find time to play,” Costa said. “We will miss you our teacher, our friend, our shining light. Every time the sun shines, we’ll remember you and your smile so bright.”