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St. Andrew Elementary losing “special” educators

June 29, 2017   ·   0 Comments

ST. ANDREW SCHOOL in Orangeville will say goodbye to three special individuals this year as Principal Dan LaCute (middle) and teachers Gail Ditchburn (left) and Miriam VanLeeuwen (right) get set to retire.

By Mike Pickford

Almost 100-years of teaching experience will walk through the doors of St. Andrew Elementary School in Orangeville for the last time on Friday (June 30) as three longtime members of staff prepare to hang up their marker pens for good.

Principal Dan LaCute, and teachers Gail Ditchburn and Miriam VanLeeuwen are calling time on their careers at the end of the current school year after several decades of teaching for Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board.

Describing her retirement as “very bittersweet” at a celebratory end-of-year BBQ on June 20, Ms. Ditchburn – an 18-year veteran of St. Andrew School – said it was an emotional time as she prepares to bid one final farewell to a school tp which she has dedicated the majority of her career.

“This has been an incredible journey,” Ms. Ditchburn told the Citizen. “So many children have touched my heart over the years. I have so many memories and stories that will stay with me for the rest of my life… I really could not have picked a better career.”

Miriam VanLeeuwen has spent 29 years as a self-professed second mom to thousands of children in Orangeville. Having taught the early developmental years of kindergarten and Grades 1, 2 and 3, Ms. VanLeeuwen said she’s really going to miss the infectious enthusiasm of her students when she retires.

“This has been the absolute perfect career for me. I never had any kids myself, so I was able to be both mom and teacher to a lot of children over the past 29 years,” Ms. VanLeeuwen said. “Most of all though, this has just been a lot of fun. People say teaching is a stressful career, but I’ve loved every minute of it. It’s been an honour helping to mould generation after generation.”

Retiring wasn’t the easiest decision for Dan LaCute to make just four years after taking the helm at St. Andrew. An educator for three decades, Mr. LaCute spent the bulk of his career teaching in Brampton and Caledon before coming to the community he calls home in 2013. With his last day now finally upon him, Dan reflected on his legacy as both an educator and a mentor in an interview earlier this month.

“I’ve been truly blessed to be at St. Andrew these past four years and to call time on my career here in Orangeville is fitting. This is the place I proudly call home and it’s been an incredible honour to work in what is an unbelievable school community,” Mr. LaCute said.

He added, “While I’ve served as a teacher, vice-principal and special educator over the years, my crowning achievement, the thing I’m most proud of is that I’ve been able to help give students the opportunity to come into a safe and caring environment where they can learn, and are excited about learning. There’s a real feeling of family here at St. Andrew… I’m really going to miss it.”

         

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