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Vicky Nordlund and Room 224: The Written Legacy of Rockville High Schools

VERNON, CT — The teacher who has statistically been Connecticut’s top creative writing coach for the past several years was almost at a loss for words Wednesday.

“I’m emotional…it’s been emotional,” Vicky Nordlund said from room 224 at Rockville High School. “I move things that I want to pass on, I pack things that I want to keep. Yes… it’s moving.”

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This is Nordlund’s final semester at RHS after announcing his retirement earlier in the school year. This is RHS number 34 – all in room 224.

According to Joyce Hida, a 2017 RHS graduate and 2021 University of Pennsylvania graduate who currently works in communications for a law firm, “the world of Nordland never leaves you.”

Room 224…Rockville High School…

For three decades, it has been the epicenter of thinking, creating, sharing, finding joy and comfort – and winning – with RHS creative writing students winning on average nearly of 100 state, regional and national awards in recent years, easily leading Connecticut. .

“And it’s a public school,” Nordlund is quick to say. “When you look at who else wins, it’s the private schools … and Greenwich (high school). It’s a special place and a special program.”

Room 224 at RHS. (Chris Dehnel/Patch)

Hida added: “The room is a manifestation of how to teach writing at all levels, as well as the collective history that has been brought together. You think of the room and say, ‘Oh shit, oh my God’, and realize all of this is a connection to history and what a great teacher and author she is in her own right. This has always been our own room…this is writing as a visual art. has always been a serious course in a whimsical, beautiful, historic venue.

And Room 224 has taken on a life of its own over the past 34 years. Norlund calls it “magical.” One is greeted by gnomes, a giraffe couch, gargoyles, comfy chairs, posters of Broadway plays that the students and Nordlund have seen, and murals and quotes on the walls.

There is an entire section of student thank you notes, alongside the national medals.

And THE PODIUM.

RHS senior Jenny Michaud cherishes THE PODIUM.

“This play helped me grow a lot as a person,” she said. “When I came here, I was calm. Now I feel comfortable in a room full of people.”

She shared a recent experience during a reading at the Sunken Garden Poetry Festival at the Hill-Stead Museum in Farmington.

“In the days leading up to it, I thought I would be nervous,” she said. “Then I arrived, went in and didn’t go. The course not only teaches writing, but also public speaking.”

How respected is Nordland? Take for example a recent presentation session for the Honors Program at Eastern Connecticut State University. As students introduced themselves, Dean of Arts and Sciences Emily Todd introduced herself after noticing the RHS Creative Writers hoodie on one student.

“I see you’re in Vicky’s class,” Todd said. “You know, we’re looking for well-rounded liberal arts students for the honors program, not just the student who does well on the SAT.”

Understanding this, the student applied, was accepted, and will attend Eastern as an honors student.

Another school district in the state is building creative writing based on the Rockville model.

RHS principal Jason Magao was complimentary.

“It has been my sincere pleasure to work with Ms. Victoria Nordlund over the past several years,” he said. “She is both a talented teacher and writer herself, and the students of Rockville High School have benefited immensely from her knowledge. I wish her well in her retirement.”

(Chris Dehnel/Patch)

Retirement has brought some sadness for RHS junior Athena Lavigne, but a consolation prize might be preserving the character of Room 224. She is behind a petition to “save the paintings murals”. If she can’t have Nordlund, she reasons, maybe the students can keep the mood going.

“This room is all about comfort and growth – those are the two words that immediately come to mind,” she said. “So much growth comes out of this room. It also feels like home, not a classroom. It’s a creative space, a comfortable space. This room creates an environment that kids want to learn in.”

The petition, she said, is now conceptual. She added, however, that it was a serious feeling.

“This play transforms the school into a place you want to be,” she said. “This piece means acceptance.”

Senior Kim Yankson pointed out the “history” of the piece.

“There’s a lot of history here,” she said. “And it’s not just the past, but also my four years here. We have to keep the majesty of this room intact. It means so much to people.”

Nordlund said he will miss teaching, but retirement won’t be reserved for simply sipping wine while attending concerts. She will travel a bit to lead writing workshops, work on the Twain House imprint, and finish more of her own work. His work has already been published several times.

“I’m very emotional, but everything will be fine,” she said. “The wonderful thing is all the students who have stayed in touch. It’s not just the thank you notes over the years, but also the phone calls and Facebook messages. The classes will continue and will always be part of us.”