TA News

Track and Field Coach Joel Breakstone Honored

In the spring of 2020, an anonymous donor pledged to update all of the cardio equipment in the Hathorn Engelman Fitness Center. The generous gift was made, the donor shared, to honor the contributions of TA’s longtime track and field coach Joel Breakstone.

With the pandemic, it would be another year before TA’s teams and fitness classes would be able to take full advantage of the new treadmills, stationary bikes, and more – and another six months before TA finally had the opportunity to celebrate the gift’s honoree.

On Friday, Thetford Academy hosted a small dedication and plaque unveiling ceremony for Joel after indoor track practice. The gathered student athletes, alumni, parents, faculty, and staff, shared their appreciations of Joel–with words of their own and of those who were unable to attend.

Fellow coach and English faculty member Emily Silver began with a history of Joel’s nearly 20 years at TA, which began in 2003 when Joel interned with Social Studies teacher Barb Sorenson as an Americorps Vista volunteer. That first fall, Joel volunteered with the cross country program–a sport he had never participated in–and began his journey as an important coach and mentor to TA’s athletes.

“While he did not run cross-country or participate in track, he rowed crew for Brown, a Division I program. As an endurance athlete, Joel applied his knowledge of training and racing to running, and instantly made a positive impact on TA’s cross-country program.” shared Emily.

Emily was followed by another of TA’s coaches, Charlie Buttrey, whose appreciations were shared in his familiar question and answer format:

Q. Wait — Is this tribute supposed to be in question-and-answer format?

A. Please dear God, just this once, no.

Q. That’s a pity. I know he enjoys the question-and-answer format. What is this all about again?

A. We’re honoring Joel! He started the indoor track program and built it into the powerhouse that it is! He has mentored hundreds of TA athletes! He’s kind! He’s good!

Former track athlete Matt Longwell’s (TA 2007) words summed up what so many TA athletes said about Joel: “I didn’t know the meaning of teamwork, discipline, or focus prior to track and field at TA. Joel was able to move us all toward a shared goal as a team, while paying close attention to us as individuals. He knew when we needed a push, and helped us work through it. He allowed us to see not only our potential as individuals, but our role in a collective pursuit. He truly cared.”

At the end of the event, Joel unveiled the plaque in his honor: “Teacher, Coach, Mentor.” Congratulations, Joel, and thank you.



We set high expectations. We challenge all members of the school community to reach their highest potential.


We value initiative, courage and dedication. We take personal responsibility for the goals we set and work hard to achieve them.


We work and learn together. We see teachers as coaches, students as team members, families as partners, and learning as practice and action.


We provide individuals with personalized support and guidance. We care about each other and the larger community.


We respect differences among people. We welcome the contribution of varied perspectives to a rich and flexible school culture.