Nonetheless, Walpole High has always felt like home to Thornton as she coached field hockey for 27 years and gymnastics for 13 to 14 years in addition to teaching. Under Thornton’s leadership, the Walpole Porkers won several championships and the gymnastics team clinched a couple.
“Even when I wasn’t teaching, I coached two sports so I was up here all the time— it felt like it anyways,” Thornton said.
Thornton even enlightened non-PE staff members. Science teacher Daniel Mullaney shared that Thornton’s persona cannot be defined by a single memory.
“My favorite memory of Mrs. Thornton isn't a specific memory, but rather listening to her tell a story about her experiences as a new teacher and how she often learned the difference between what sounded good in theory and what actually worked in a real classroom,” Mullaney said. “It often reminded me of my own experiences and we could share a laugh.”
In her earlier years at WHS, Thornton dedicated six weeks to creating Gymnaestrada. Gymnaestrada was a gymnastics show that consisted of comedy routines, a triple balance team, rapid-fire vaulting and a mini-trampoline routine. Thornton particularly enjoyed the concluding act of the evening, called the “tableau,” which adhered to a unique theme each year. Some aspects of this act included the following: illuminating certain students—who were painted in silver—with colored lights, a giant wagon wheel called “the Wheel of Progress,” a student embodying Rodin the Thinker and raising the flag of Iwo Jima. For Thornton, events such as these were all about celebrating her students.
“I’ve always loved working with kids and I got to do what I love to do so it made my life feel fulfilled, feel complete,” Thornton said.