By Sue Tiffin
Published July 6 2017
Two educators who retired from Archie Stouffer Elementary School last week acknowledged not just the children who had touched their lives but the school administration and community of parents and volunteers who had supported their careers.
Anne Grant vice-principal and Laurie Marks-O’Sullivan Grade 3 teacher each celebrated three decades of working in the Trillium Lakelands district.
“All of my career has been fantastic” said Marks-O’Sullivan. “Fantastic administration fantastic community awesome parents and lovely children.”
“I just couldn’t think of a happier place to come” said Grant. “I’m always happy to come here. I feel like there’s a really great support system here – the staff the students and their families.”
Grant began teaching in Omemee in 1987 teaching Grade 4 in one of 19 portables at Lady Eaton Elementary School before moving to Scott Young Public School for 12 years. She taught a range of grades with a focus on art a subject for which she’s passionate.
“I really hope that something I have taught or shared with students somewhere along the way has sparked a passion or interest in a topic a skill or a new talent or hobby” said Grant. “I know the students have certainly sparked joy and excitement in me in many many ways.”
In 2005 she began travelling to schools to plan for literacy and math in Grade 7 and 8 as a program implementation and assessment teacher. She said she “loved coming” to ASES in that role which led to her becoming an instructional coach at the school and soon after the vice-principal.
“It’s been an awesome career” said Grant. “I’ve been so lucky to come and do something I love every day. You get so much working with children.”
Grant said there are many touching moments with students she won’t forget like the artwork they created that amazed her that three of her former students work in the same board now and the Grade 8 student that noted the look Grant got on her face when she was excited by someone’s mathematical solution. The student would say “oh gosh she’s got that look again” because of Grant’s enthusiastic response to learning.
“It is a feeling like no other to share a moment of success or an ‘aha’ with a child you are teaching – or an adult for that matter” she said. “I love to see the spark of excitement and pride in a student who feels that they have done something well figured out a tough problem or challenge or tried something a bit scary – like performing and sharing in front of peers – and felt the joy of accomplishment.”
Grant said despite the tears she had been shedding in her last weeks at school she was looking forward to having more time for her grandmother role in travel and in creating more art.
Marks-O’Sullivan agreed that teaching children had been a blessing. As a Big Sister volunteer she will still have a connection to mentoring children in retirement but said a trip to Croatia Italy and Greece that leaves on the first day of the next school year will be a welcome distraction from not returning to ASES for the first time in 29 years.
“I’m going to miss the kids I really love the kids” she said. “That piece is going to be hard for me. I love their laughter their hugs their smiles. There’s no one like a child to make you feel like a million bucks.”
Marks-O’Sullivan affectionately called Mrs. M-O by staff and students taught in Terrace Bay and Manitouwadge with the Lake Superior school board for three years before spending the remainder of her career at ASES.
Initially she taught library to the younger grades at school and said having the chance to instill a love of books in children was incredible. Her favourite book remains Robert Munsch’s Love You Forever a sentiment she shares about her students.
“Even if I read it to my class today I would still cry” she said.
Marks-O’Sullivan coached cross-country soccer and choir throughout the years at ASES and helped to launch Helping Hands the precursor to the Me to We concept which she said helped students do kind things throughout the school and community.
The Minden area is important to Marks-O’Sullivan. Within a year of moving here she bought property got married and built a house. Her time spent here has resulted in her now teaching the children of some of her students which she said has made for close quick connections with parents.
“One of my students was crying with her mom” said Marks-O’Sullivan. “She said ‘I want Mrs. M-O next year I don’t want her to go.’ Her mom said ‘let her go – she taught me in Grade 1.’”
Marks-O’Sullivan said she has also been at the school long enough to teach prior to computers.
“In my career I can remember when computers started” she said. “They were really big huge things and they seemed really complicated with floppy discs.”
After computers came smart boards – a sort of electronic visual display version of a chalkboard – and iPads in the classroom. Though the learning curve to teach in an increasingly digitized world has been at times complex for teachers she said she has managed to survive.
“Staying current is really important” she said.
After a career that she described as being exciting rich and wonderful Marks-O’Sullivan said she was looking forward to pursuing volunteer work enjoying time with her parents and giving the opportunity of teaching to incoming teachers.
“There are a lot of young phenomenal people coming up” she said. “I want to make room for them and leave when I’m still on top of my game. There is a season for everything.”
Grant and Marks-O’Sullivan were honoured with a wooden obelisk installed in the school’s front garden. “May Peace Prevail on Earth” is written on the obelisk in Greek and Croatian to acknowledge their future travels as well as in Braille to commemorate Marks-O’Sullivan’s interest in the tactile writing system and advocacy for people with low vision and blindness.
Mike Gervais who has held the position of instructional leader supporting curriculum in schools in Haliburton County for the past two years will take on the role of vice-principal at ASES this fall.
Like Grant Gervais has worked with the TLDSB for the length of his career – 13 years thus far. As a teacher he taught Grades 6 to 8 at JDHES in Haliburton and Grades 7 to 8 in Cardiff. Gervais said he has interest in supporting students in special education and also in developing inquiry and technology learning.
“I’m super excited just to get to work with the staff meet a whole new group of kids and see where I can fit in to best help the students” he said.
Gervais lives in Haliburton with his wife Karen a teacher at HHSS and two kids.