Love and education
Carbonear couple retires together after long careers as teachers
Even after 30 years of marriage, Ronald and Janet Buckles’s eyes still light up when they see each other.
The Carbonear natives, who were high school sweethearts, still have a strong commitment to each other, and just as strong a commitment to their profession — teaching.
Every weekday morning for the past five years the Buckles have made the half-hour trip from their home in Carbonear to Green’s Harbour, but that is about to change. Their situation is unique. Both teachers will retire at the same time and from the same school, Acreman Elementary, later this month.
A Grade 1 teacher, Janet says it will be difficult getting up everyday and not heading to work.
“This lifestyle is ingrained in me,” she smiles.
Ronald, a Grade 3 teacher, is going to keep himself busy with a one-person handyman business.
The couple shared their story during a wide ranging interview in the school library. There’s no hiding their deep connection to one another as they finish each other’s sentences, glance lovingly into the other’s eyes or place a hand on the other’s arm when sharing an anecdote.
In 1982, after five years at Memorial University, Janet and Ronald were offered full-time teaching positions — Ronald in La Poile on the southwest coast of Newfoundland and Janet in McCallum, on the south coast.
Experiencing ferries, isolated communities and no vehicles or roads for the first time on their own was a rough venture.
The next summer they got married, and planned to work closer together.
Their wish came true when a second teaching position became available in La Poile, and Janet got the job.
An obstacle presented itself a month before the school year began when they were notified the house they were going to rent was sold. They could not give up their positions, so they decided to do something a little unusual — buy a travel trailer.
The trailer was shipped by a freight boat and was left on the wharf for when the couple arrived. It became a spectacle for the town since it was a rare event to have a trailer arrive on the wharf, and no vehicles to tow it.
Taking it from the wharf became an event for members of the community, and Ronald turned it into a game.
“I went to the local store and I came out with two dozen beer,” he smirks. “I said ‘where I put this beer is where I want the trailer. Whoever brings the trailer to me can have all the beer.’”
The trailer, just 18 feet long, was brought to a location next to the school, and became their home for the next three-and-a-half years. But it was not without its modern conveniences. It contained a washer and dryer, though when the dryer was in operation, the electric heat would shut off.
Community and school
Janet and Ronald have taught at several different schools in numerous communities over the years, including La Poile, Grand le Pierre and Monkstown, to name a few.
They have been welcomed with open arms in every location, they say.
During his four years in Monkstown on the Burin Peninsula, Ronald acted as a “self-charge” teaching principal at a tiny school where the highest enrolment reached just six pupils. When enrolment dropped to just one student, the school closed and Ron was out of a job, at least temporarily. He was later offered a job in Grand Le Pierre, where Janet was teaching.
Janet says during the years Ron taught in Monkstown she never had to pack him a lunch because residents would always invite him in for meals.
The communities have been good to the Buckles, but they have also returned the support.
“We often attend our student dances and music recitals, figure skating shows and hockey tournaments,” Janet says. “The parents and students appreciate us sharing our weekends with them.”
A recycling program at school is also one of their big passions.
On June 6, the school hosted a dinner in honour of the couple’s contributions to Acreman Elementary, something that has never been done before.
“Usually the school gives those retiring a gift,” Ronald says. “This was definitely a surprise.”
Although Ronald and Janet have been each other’s support system throughout their many years together, they say they are “blessed” to have support from their parents — William and Eileen Dwyer and Reuben and Mary Buckle.
Their parents still live in Carbonear in their own homes and are a big reason why the couple moved home in 2008.
“Our parents were getting older, and we wanted to be there for them,” Janet says.
Their parents have been the backbone to their success, she continues.
For several years, the couple tried to get jobs on the Avalon Peninsula to move closer to their parents.
“The way we looked at it, we came as a package deal,” says Ron. “All or none.”
After three years of looking, they applied for positions at Acreman Elementary.
“They didn’t have it easy,” Ronald’s mother, Mary, says.
She tells a story about when Ronald was in Grade 7 and the school he was attending tried to put him in a “special needs class.”
She disagreed he needed extra help because he always had great marks in school, so she had him transferred.
“If I hadn’t stood up for him then I don’t know where he’d be now,” she says.
Janet also credits Ronald with her success.
“I don’t think I would have done so well without his love and support,” she says. “He’s like my right arm.”
Janet and Ronald will be taking some time to themselves before they embark upon their next adventures.
They have not decided where these adventures will take them yet, but both say it is likely to be an interesting and exciting journey.
The husband and wife team of Ronald (left) and Janet Buckle will retire together from teaching at the end of this month. They spent the past five years at Acreman Elementary in Green’s Harbour.
Ronald Buckle says he has been very blessed to have his parents Reuben (right) and Mary Buckle as such a driving force behind his success.
William(left) and Eileen Dwyer have given huge support and encouragement to their daughter, Janet Buckle. She says they are the backbone to her success.