Welcome to this week’s Meet the Characters, part of a series of profiles done by Exeter Ledger editor CJ Jenkins.
Liz Czarnecki is known throughout town as Mrs. C to the students and former students who have passed through her third-grade classroom at Park Street Elementary over the years.
“Czarnecki’s a mouthful anyway, and for third-graders it’s a lot to ask,” she said. “Evan and I married right after I graduated from Exeter State, so when I started in the fall, it only took me two days to realize I needed something easier for the kids to remember.”
While the couple has been married for 12 years, they’ve been together for 20, since they were freshmen at Exeter High.
“We really are high school sweethearts,” Czarnecki said. “We had a couple of times in high school and college where we broke up for a few weeks, but really we’ve been together since we were 14.”
For somebody who once wanted to get as far away from Exeter as possible and didn’t plan on settling down until she was in her 30s, Czarnecki is happy with her life the way it played out.
“It’s hard being considered different in a small town,” she said. “When I was younger, all I saw was the negative.”
Full name: Elizabeth Anne Mary Reilly Czarnecki
Family: My husband, Evan, and our three girls, Michelle, 11, Jessie, 9 and Kayla, 6. My mother died last year, and my Gram is in a nursing home with Alzheimer’s. My cousin Dan is the brother I never had, and my cousin Colleen is my best friend.
Childhood ambition: To move to the big city, someplace where nobody knew me, and do something important.
Three most important people in life: It has to be four, because it’s Evan and my girls.
List of three things would take if evacuating: Our chocolate Lab, Hershey; the photo albums for each of the girls and the locket my grandfather bought for Gram when they got married. She passed it on to my mother, who gave it to me when Evan and I got engaged.
What would your last meal be? Red wine, chocolate and strawberries from the patch we grow in the backyard. If I could keep the girls from eating them all off the vines.
What’s in your iPod? I don’t listen to much music, but I keep some Disney CDs in the car so the girls have something to listen to on car trips.
Dream vacation: Don’t get me wrong, I love the girls, but Evan and I haven’t taken a vacation, even a long weekend, for just the two of us since our honeymoon.
Idea of hell: A room full of third graders on the day before Christmas break.
Best advice you ever got: Don’t let small-minded people have power over your life, from my Gram.
Fun Friday night plans: If we’re not shuttling the kids around, Evan and I try to have dinner with Dan and Chris once a month.
Ideal date: Something quiet, low-key, where Evan and I can catch up, just the two of us.
Favorite sport? Red Sox. Although the girls and I love to watch figure skating on TV.
Hobbies/activities: I don’t have time for much these days, but what time I do have, I help out the Historical Society. Riordan tells so many stories about Exeter way back when that I got interested, and I always include a small unit on Exeter history during the year for my kids, though that’s tougher now that MCAS dictates so much of what we teach.
Favorite season: Spring, when everything is new, even though it means the kids and Hershey track mud everywhere.
One thing you would tell your 13-year-old self: Stand up for yourself, even with Danny.
Favorite quote: “What lies behind us and what lies before us are small matter compared to what lies within us.” Emerson.
Person you’d love to have dinner with: Helen Keller always fascinated me, but the only sign language I know is finger spelling, so I don’t know how well that would have worked. Somebody would have had to translate.
Coffee or tea: Tea. I’ll drink coffee in the morning to get going, but I love to curl up with a book and a cup of tea for a little me time.
Beer or wine: I don’t drink either one all that often.
Righty or lefty: Righty.
Introvert or extrovert: Introvert, but I can speak up when I need to.
Beach or mountains: Beach. I love to take the kids to the lake and relax on the sand, especially now that they’re older.
— CJ Jenkins