ELHS Rallies Behind Ms. Sojkowski


Students Sophia VanDerMaelen (left) and Delaney Donovan (right) send Ms. Sojkowski their support.

ELHS math teacher of 15 years Stephanie Sojkowski and her family will not be returning to normalcy anytime soon after their vehicle was hit by Vermont resident Javery Hattat, who was driving under the influence of drugs. Hattat, driving a truck at the time, swerved into the wrong lane, causing a head-on collision with the Sojkowski family at 3:30 p.m. in Greenfield, MA.

“She’s working very hard to recover, and we all hope she can sometime get back here to teach,” ELHS math teacher and close friend Lauren Machnik said.

Ms. Sojkowski’s husband and two children suffered serious injuries, with Ms. Sojkowski’s being the most severe.

According to Ms. Machnik, Ms. Sojkowski broke bones in her neck, back, femur, pelvis, arm, sacrum, ribs, orbital bones, and many bones in the face. She’s been moved from the ICU to a rehab facility where she is working hard every day on recovery. She has reportedly made great improvements and her children have returned to school and her husband has officially started rehab at home.

In an effort to help the family, Ms. Machnik started a Meal Train where people are able to sign up to donate food and money to the family to lift some weight off their shoulders during the long recovery process. There has been an outpouring of support; $47,000 has been raised out of their $50,000 goal as of April 17, and meals have been booked out for weeks. On the website, the family has posted updates throughout their recovery process to share with family and friends. There was also a support day at ELHS for Ms. Sojkowski on April 6, where students wore maroon and white to show their support. According to Ms. Machnik, the idea was brought up by freshman Ethan Legg.

In her absence, her students have been assigned work on Google Classroom with retired math teacher Alan Moger substituteing for the rest of the year. Many members of the math department have contributed to helping her classes.

Department head Margaret Gross has been visiting her classes for 20-30 minutes each class to help teach lessons, and various math teachers have helped grade assignments.

But even with the efforts to make up for her absence, the classroom isn’t the same without her.

“Ms. Sojkowski is a very special teacher. She really cares about her students and their academic progress, and she was one of the first teachers that really advocated for my struggles in and out of math class. I miss her a lot,” sophomore Delaney Donovan said.

“I got the phone call and sadly, I saw the picture of the car before I knew if she was okay. Me and Ms. Machnik were on the phone with each other looking at the pictures, not knowing if she had made it at that point,” fellow colleague and friend Kerri Legg said.

The fear that overtook close family and friends of the Sojkowskis once they found out about the accident was indescribable.

“When I heard the news, I was genuinely so shocked. It was especially scary to see the picture of the accident,” sophomore Kate Erikson said. Both Erikson and her friend, sophomore Grace Dubrava, had Ms. Sojkowski last year in class and have been worried for her since the accident.

Whether you know her or not, there are many ways to support the Sojkowski family in this difficult time. You can donate on the Meal Train website, post a supportive video on her tribute page, make a card, or send a thoughtful email.

The Effects of Driving High

At the time of the accident, Javery Hattat, the man who hit the Sojkowski family was under the influence. He faced many drug-related charges including operating a motor vehicle under the influence and possession of a class B substance (cocaine).

According to Ms. Machnik, one of the biggest takeaways Ms. Sojkowski hopes for others to learn from her accident is the impact of driving under the influence.

“I think what she would want to come out of this is for everybody to be more responsible and aware of decisions they
make when it comes to drinking and drugs and driving,” Ms. Machnik said.

“In a situation like this, it’s a miracle that everyone is alive. What people forget is that when you decide to drink or do a drug and drive, you’re not just putting yourself in harm’s way, but you are really taking the chance of altering someone else’s life.”

Mr. Hattat’s poor decisions caused irreversible damage on the lives of countlesspeople. Everyone learns about safe driving at school, but this is a real life example that truly illustrates the importance of driving sober.