Montville and Waterford teacher Christine Piezzo remembered

Former Montville and Waterford High School teacher Christine Piezzo, known for her compassion toward students and love for her children, passed away last week. She was 52.

According to Westerly Police Chief Shawn Lacey, Piezzo was discovered unresponsive in her home on Oct. 15. Lacey said there weren't signs of foul play, and police are waiting for the autopsy report before making a determination on the cause of death.

Piezzo was a French teacher who advocated for students and cared deeply for her children, Eliza and Latham Woodman. In one instance, her compassion drew wide media attention when she led an effort to cease "serving cheese sandwiches to children when their parents fall behind on their lunch payments," per the Associated Press.

Instead, the Westerly, Rhode Island school committee, of which Piezzo was a member, proposed alerting parents when a child's account went below $0.00, and a school social worker would speak with parents if the balance went $25 or more in the negative. The goal of the measure was to avoid embarrassing students.

"The first thing we wanted to do was take the kid out of the equation," Piezzo said at the time. "The student will not know" their account balance, she added, "and the business will be one between adults."

Born in Westerly on Aug. 7, 1967, Piezzo attended Westerly High School and Salve Regina University. There, she attained a bachelor of science degree in French literature and a bachelor of arts in education. Piezzo continued her education with a diploma from L'Université Paris, 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne/Cannes-Université and later secured a master of arts in education from the University of New Haven.

Piezzo was a familiar face at Montville High School for more than 20 years, where she taught French. She also worked at Waterford High School until the close of 2018-19 school year.

Montville Public Schools Superintendent Laurie Pallin remembered Piezzo in an email.

"It is with great sorrow that the Montville High School community reflects on the passing of Christine Piezzo who was a former French teacher, club advisor and cheerleading coach," the email read. "Christine played myriad roles in her time at MHS; she was instrumental in leading our NEASC accreditation process and in the development of our school's vision and 21st Century skills. She was a passionate advocate for the school improvement process and touched the lives of many students and staff members. We extend our condolences to her family and hold them in our thoughts."

Waterford High School Principal Andre Hauser said Piezzo made a tall impression in a short time.

"She left at the end of last year, and she did leave a number of people she had close connections with," Hauser said. "I know some students were really connected with her, especially the ones who took French."

The legacy.com obituary of Piezzo, published by The Day on Oct. 20, said she wasn't only passionate about her children or her students — she also adored cooking.

"Everything she made was delicious, and that is not an exaggeration," the obituary read. "Her ability to make all who entered her home feel welcomed always resulted in everyone leaving full and happy."

Joseph Piezzo, Christine's father, and her sisters, Suzanne Tamburro and Jo-Ann Holmes, attested to her cooking prowess. Joseph Piezzo said he is appreciative of the reaction of friends, colleagues, students and family following his daughter's death.

"She was a good kid, liked by everybody. She was happy-go-lucky. She was a true friend, a good daughter, a good mother," he said. "We had a wake, maybe 500 people came to pay their respects. Teachers from Montville, teachers from Waterford that she worked with, the superintendent of schools in Westerly."

Tamburro said her sister set an example for her growing up.

"She's my older sister, so I'm the middle, and growing up in her shadow, she was always so smart," Tamburro said. "She was a teacher, a coach to me. We were a little opposite; she was a cook, I'm a cleaner. I'd rather clean the dishes; she'd rather cook."

Holmes relayed a story of Piezzo's strength, her tendency to look out for others and her fluency in French. Piezzo brought Holmes on a school trip to France and England, with Holmes acting as a chaperone for the students. During the trip, the big sister told off a thief at a French train station.

"In 1997, when she was at Montville High School, there was a big group of us, and we were at the train station, and a pickpocket tried to pickpocket me," Holmes said. "She told him off in French and scared him away. I just nodded my head and said, 'Oui!' She was such a strong-willed person."

Piezzo is survived by her parents, her children, her sisters, nephews and a niece.

s.spinella@theday.com

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