In a ceremony that was part roast and part tearful farewell, Fort La Bosse School Division said thank you to a beloved teacher and co-worker after 40 years at the same school.
In fact, Donna George is one of only a handful of people who worked in both Mary Montgomery Elementary Schools – the old two-storey brick one and the new one.
Even though she hasn’t officially left the building yet, on Thursday, June 6 she received a hero’s send-off from her colleagues.
One of them, Principal Brad Hayward, took the podium and spoke of their years together, alternately making himself cry and the audience laugh with his Donna stories.
“I used to have Donna read through my speeches and she could always be counted on to add polish to them. Get this: Yesterday she showed up at my office and I knew damn well why she was there. She wanted to read her speech… I'm now taking applications for a new grammar sergeant.”
Hayward wasn’t the only one who sought her advice at school. He recalls seeing line-ups six or seven deep at her office, other teachers wanting her advice or help. She would always put their needs ahead of her own and could be counted on to say, “Well, if it needs doing, I’ll do it,” and she would.
In introducing her to the assembled crowd of well-wishers, Hayward said, his voice breaking with emotion, “We all need a champion to believe in us. Someone to stand in our corner. To pick us up. To believe in us when others may not. To push us forward.
“From the bottom of my heart, I wish to say thank you for being one of those people in my life.”
After the standing ovation and after the bear hugs along the way to the podium, Donna George took the microphone and delivered remarks filled with gratitude for a career and co-workers she loved.
“Though much has changed, one thing has stayed the same over all those years - the reason why we are in education: we love what we do and the rewards are immeasurable.”
And while other teachers might moan and groan at the end of summer break about returning to school, George says she was always excited to go back.
“I have always loved teaching, it was never a job to me,” she told the audience.
Even though her last official day with the school division will be June 28, it may not be the last they see of Donna George at school. Because along with the more exotic items on her bucket list (violin lessons! auctioneer training!), she also hopes to volunteer or substitute at Mary Montgomery, “if they will have me.”
Her hope, expressed just before returning to her seat beside husband Don, was for something everyone in the room can agree she’s accomplished:
“I haven't turned the world upside down in my career but I hope I've made a difference in some children’s lives.”