Sun­ny­side teach­ers say good-bye

Stanstead Journal - - FRONT PAGE - Vic­to­ria Vanier, Stanstead

An im­por­tant page in the history of Sun­ny­side Ele­men­tary School has turned with the re­tirea­ment of Claire Ber­trand, Ron Phendler, Co­lette Roy and Elaine Va­chon who, be­tween them, have taught at the school for one hun­dred and thirty years.

The staff and stu­dents sur­prised the four teach­ers, last Tues­day, with a spe­cial trib­ute dur­ing the endof-year assem­bly which was at­tended by many par­ents, some of whom had also been taught by the re­tir­ing ed­u­ca­tors.

“I al­ways wanted to teach kinder­garten and I was lucky to get the po­si­tion at Sun­ny­side right af­ter I grad­u­ated,” said Claire Ber­trand who has been Sun­ny­side’s kinder­garten teacher for thir­ty­four years. Com­ment­ing on the ben­e­fits of ele­men­tary teach­ers stay­ing at the same school for many years, Claire said: “It was fun for the teach­ers to teach the chil­dren of for­mer stu­dents. And the par­ents have more con­fi­dence in us, be­cause they know us, and the chil­dren can see that.”

Mme. Ber­trand is sure next year’s crop of five-year-olds will be in good hands: “Marie-Josée Boulet was a sta­giaire with me and I’m re­ally happy to be pass­ing the ba­ton to her. She is a good teacher, very pas­sion­ate.”

“A teacher should al­ways be re­new­ing, and learn­ing along with the chil­dren; evolv­ing in their pro­fes­sion. It’s also im­por­tant to stay close to the com­mu­nity be­cause a school is like a fam­ily,” she added.

“I’d like to thank the Stanstead com­mu­nity for sup­port­ing me through­out the years, es­pe­cially in all the spe­cial projects, and I thank all the chil­dren – they al­lowed me to grow,” con­cluded Mme. Ber­trand. On a sad note, Pinotte, the kinder­garten mas­cot who ar­rived with Claire on her first day, will also be re­tir­ing.

Ron Phendler, who grew up in the Mon­treal area, adopted the Eastern Town­ships as his home in 1979. “I can re­mem­ber driv­ing across Lake Mem­phrem­a­gog dur­ing the win­ter when I was work­ing at the Man­sonville School,” said Mr. Phendler who be­gan teach­ing at Sun­ny­side twen­ty­seven years ago.

Be­sides his reg­u­lar re­spon­si­bil­i­ties at the school, teach­ing grades 3/4, then grade 1, Mr. Phendler will cer­tainly be re­mem­bered for his melo­di­ous con­tri­bu­tion to the school, teach­ing mu­sic to all the lev­els and pro­vid­ing

the mu­si­cal en­ter­tain­ment dur­ing many of the school’s spe­cial events, usu­ally with fel­low teacher Elaine Va­chon. “Over the last thirty-five years, I brought my guitar to school ev­ery day. I’ve gone through three guitar cases! It’s re­ally been the best pay­ing guitar gig.”

“I’ve walked to Beebe and climbed Mont Or­ford more times than I can re­mem­ber. I’ve even danced in a tutu on a cafe­te­ria ta­ble af­ter los­ing a bet with the stu­dents. I told them that if they could find a word that didn’t have a vowel in it…ap­par­ently the word ‘nth’ is in the dic­tionary.”

“Be­gin­ning in grade 1, stu­dents should do ‘guided writ­ing’ ev­ery day. In my grade 1 class, last year, the stu­dents made 177 jour­nal en­tries. I’ve seen big im­prove­ments when the stu­dents do ‘guided writ­ing’ and the stu­dents like the rou­tine of it,” was some of this ex­pe­ri­enced teacher’s ad­vice. “I learnt to read out of fear, so when I get on my high horse, I re­mem­ber not to be like my old teacher. Half the bat­tle is fought if the kids want to come to school.”

Mu­sic will con­tinue to be an im­por­tant part of Mr. Phendler’s life as he plans to con­duct more sing-alongs with the Vet­er­ans at Ste. Anne’s Hos­pi­tal, where his fa­ther lives, and to take ad­vanced guitar lessons. “I also hope to come back and play at the school, if Elaine comes with me.”

Co­lette Roy, who grew up in Coat­i­cook and lives there still, has taught in the French pro­gram at Sun­ny­side since 1983, cov­er­ing the sub­jects of French lan­guage, Art, Science, So­cial Science, Drama and Dance, as Mme. Roy says, “Toute en fran­cais.”

“When I was in kinder­garten I said that I wanted to be a teacher. Af­ter I grad­u­ated from the Univer­sité de Sher­brooke, I be­gan right away at Sun­ny­side. French was not re­ally loved at the time, but the com­mu­nity ac­cepted me as a Fran­co­phone, even though my English was piti­ful! I felt that I al­ways had good col­lab­o­ra­tion and good com­mu­ni­ca­tion with the par­ents,” said Co­lette.

Mme. Roy had some par­tic­u­lar ad­vice for teach­ing French. “You must have a lot of pa­tience and pas­sion. With­out that you will die! And you shouldn’t use English at all, but find other ways to com­mu­ni­cate some­thing when the stu­dent doesn’t un­der­stand.”

Co­lette has many plans for the fu­ture, such as trav­el­ling, learn­ing how to play the pi­ano, clean­ing her house and pos­si­bly even writ­ing a chil­dren’s book. “We put a lot aside when we’re teach­ing, but it’s worth it to be able to make a dif­fer­ence in the life of an in­di­vid­ual,” con­cluded Mme. Roy.

Re­source teacher Elaine Va­chon has been at Sun­ny­side the long­est and has thirty-seven years un­der her belt. “I spent my whole ca­reer in­volved with Spe­cial Ed­u­ca­tion; even when I taught grade two I still did re­source work. I’ve been very for­tu­nate to spend my whole life work­ing with kids; they’re in­ter­est­ing peo­ple,” said Ms. Va­chon.

With forty-five years in the school­ing sys­tem, Elaine was asked about the changes she’d seen in ed­u­ca­tion. “Ev­ery few years we get new re­forms so we’ve been through a num­ber of changes. The change I’ve seen with the most en­dur­ing dif­fer­ence is the un­der­stand­ing that teach­ing and learn­ing are so­cial ac­tiv­i­ties; the stu­dent needs to have an at­tach­ment to the teacher. The whole staff here at Sun­ny­side has re­ally fo­cused on that and we’ve seen a big dif­fer­ence at Sun­ny­side in the last few years,” Elaine com­mented.

Her ad­vice for new teach­ers was: “Don’t take it per­son­ally if a stu­dent does some­thing they shouldn’t – kids will do things – but try to form an at­tach­ment with ev­ery child that comes into the class­room.”

Ms. Va­chon plans to be more cre­ative with her time, mu­si­cally and ar­tis­ti­cally, and is an­tic­i­pat­ing hav­ing more time for other favourite ac­tiv­i­ties. “I have a two year-old grand-daugh­ter now and I’m look­ing for­ward to get­ting into my gar­den.”

“It’s won­der­ful to teach in the com­mu­nity that you live in, teach­ing the kids of for­mer pupils, see­ing the stu­dents and their par­ents at the gro­cery store. I re­ally like that feel­ing of a long-term en­gage­ment,” said Ms. Va­chon who, like Mr. Phendler, grew up in Mon­treal. “I’ve en­joyed ev­ery year at Sun­ny­side; it was a very mean­ing­ful part of my life.”

Photo Stanstead Jour­nal

Sun­ny­side’s four re­tir­ing teach­ers, Ron Phendler and (l. to r.) Co­lette Roy, Elaine

Va­chon and Claire Ber­trand, taught at the school a to­tal of 130 years.

Photo Stanstead Jour­nal

Re­tir­ing teach­ers Claire Ber­trand, Co­lette Roy and Elaine Va­chon served cake at the sur­prise cel­e­bra­tion held at the school last week.

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