It doesn’t seem that long ago, Ed Kolnaski walked through Cutler Middle School as a student. He’d have been 12 or 13 years old then.
He talked too much in math, so the teacher would send him out in the hall by the lockers.
Now Kolnaski, 25, the grandson of former Town Councilor Catherine Kolnaski, is a student teacher in the same school he attended. He started this fall and is student teaching social studies alongside his former teacher and now peer, Diane Portelance.
“She’s exactly the same,” he said. “She was always laid back. Always fun.” He got a B+ or maybe even an A in her class; at some point, he made a movie about the Opium Wars using his dad's old VHS camera.
As a Cutler student, Ed Kolnaski walked to school. He attended Noank Elementary, Cutler, then Fitch High School. He earned his undergraduate degree in political science from Castleton State College in Vermont, then enrolled in the master’s program at Sacred Heart University. He had an internship in Norwich, then applied across various districts for his student teaching position.
Cutler Principal Robert Pendolphi called as soon as Kolnaski's name appeared on the list.
Portelance said she was excited to learn who her student teacher was.
“On day one, we just started connecting,” she said. The student teaching job lasts 10 weeks.
Kolnaski comes from a family of educators who have devoted decades to public schools: His mother, Diane Kolnaski, teaches at West Side and has been there about 30 years; his uncle, Neil Solar, teaches math at Cutler and has been with the system 30 years; Kolnaski’s father taught for 32 years; another uncle and an aunt each taught for 30 years more; his grandfather taught for 42 years.
Kolnaski’s brother recently began teaching in Waterford, and three cousins are teachers or former teachers in Ledyard, Waterford and Stonington.
“I always wanted to teach at the high school level," Ed Kolnaski said. But he said he’s enjoying his time at Cutler and feels both a sense of accomplishment and excitement. “You can have some really good conversations and explore some deep subjects,” he said.