TA News

Faculty Spotlight: 2023 Employee Award Goes to Joe Deffner!

Long-time teacher Joe Deffner was honored with the 2023 Peters Family Dedicated Employee Award at the end-of-year ceremonies in June. Initiated by TA educator and alum Ted Peters ‘63 in honor of his parents, this annual award spotlights a Thetford Academy employee for their deep commitment to nurture, support, and inspire students and the school community. 

Joe Deffner joined the faculty in 1991 and has been a part of making Thetford Academy a great place to teach and learn for decades. He has had an impact on students and our school in every way – in the classroom, as a coach, as a colleague and mentor, and as an active citizen of Thetford. 

When asked about the longevity of his time at Thetford Academy and what keeps him here year after year, Joe shares without hesitation: the students. “There is a culture of kindness that seems special at our school. For the most part, students are respectful of each other and their teachers. They are polite and appreciative. I love that students say thank you at the end of a class – is that a common experience at other places? I just love their energy, enthusiasm, humor, and grace.”

The breadth and depth of Joe’s involvement is impressive. He has taught middle school and high school students, leading classes in both the English and social studies departments; coached cross country for 30 years; participated in countless strategic planning cycles; co-chaired the TA Trail Committee; and played a lead role in the 7th grade trip to Washington, DC for generations of TA middle schoolers.

As Joe reflects back on his many years at TA, some of his favorite memories are during the period of time when his own sons were students at the school (Owen, class of ‘19 and Eamon, class of ‘20). “To all be a part of the same school community and see my kids perform, compete, and thrive at the school where I work was a big highlight for me – as a teacher and especially as a dad.” He also credits his family with allowing him to be so dedicated to his craft of teaching and to Thetford Academy – knowing that the time he spent lesson planning, prepping his classroom on Sundays, or coaching in the evenings was a commitment and sacrifice for them, too.

There have been a number of chapters in Joe’s long tenure at TA. He arrived on campus as a new teacher in the early 1990s. He departed early on to explore another career – but then quickly returned, as soon as another position opened up. In 2011, he moved to Japan for an international experience with his young family – and returned to TA after a year abroad. This school year he starts another chapter, shifting to a part-time role as he explores new paths forward in his life – but we know we can rely on him to be here and to always come back.

Photo: Joe and his sons in the Fall of 2018, all part of the same Boys XC Team, celebrate a championship win for the TA team.



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