By Melissa Williams Brown
GREENSBURG — Anna Brecht was all smiles when her longtime wish to get back into a first-grade classroom came true.
Brecht, 86, was a first-grade teacher at the former Sacred Heart School, Jeannette, for 40 years. More than once in casual conversation she would say, “If I could only go back into the classroom and be with the kids,” according to Mary Dreliszak, director of development and marketing at St. Anne Home, Greensburg, where Brecht lives.
Brecht’s dream came true Oct. 7, when she visited the first-grade classrooms of Annette Ustazewski and Terri Matthews at Aquinas Academy.
The teachers and students sang the ABCs and did an art project. When Brecht found out they were learning addition, she gave students an impromptu test, asking them, “What is 2+2? What is 4+4?”
She wasn’t disappointed with their quick and correct responses.
Knowing that Brecht collects angels, the students presented her with a framed angel made of their fingerprints and signed by all of them. Brecht gave the students foam Halloween stickers. She reconnected with Jessica Brecht, a distant relative and former student who is a librarian at Aquinas Academy.
Brecht said she loved every minute of teaching. She never married, so her students were like family.
At St. Anne Home, Brecht attends Mass daily in the chapel.
She’s never really stopped working. In the evenings, she volunteers in the laundry room folding clothes.
And she’s a bit of a celebrity, too, appearing in direct marketing materials, newspaper advertising and a television commercial for the home.
Dreliszak said the Aquinas visit was set up without Brecht’s knowledge. When it was confirmed, the news brought her joy.
“She is a lovely woman who is endeared at St. Anne Home,” Dreliszak said.
This is the second special event Joe Rice, Aquinas principal, has put together. He arranged a surprise homecoming last spring for a soldier father whose youngest son is an Aquinas Academy student.
He said Brecht’s visit was equally heartwarming.
“I could see a younger version of her. Her eyes lit up, and she sparkled when she was suddenly back in her teaching career. She’s so vibrant and full of life,” Rice said.
Brecht, who graduated from the former Sacred Heart School, still keeps in touch with former students and staff. The longtime parishioner of Sacred Heart Parish has bachelor’s and master’s degrees from Seton Hill University, Greensburg.
Her visit to Aquinas was breathtaking. She didn’t want to leave.
“Oh my. It was so good to be back in school. I just loved being with the kids. What a special day,” she said.