When Diane Martin started teaching at the Elmira Community Nursery School in 1984, she probably didn’t plan on being there more than 35 years later, becoming a staple at the institution. Still, that’s exactly what happened.
At the end of June she is set to say goodbye to the school she loves and officially enter retirement, a new path from the one she set upon when she graduated from Conestoga College in 1977 and became a registered early childhood educator.
“When I was hired here in Elmira at that time, it was just such a blessing and a gift to me to have been connecting with not just the kids, but the families. The nursery school is a cooperative preschool operated as a non-profit by a parent board of directors. So, every day I’m engaging with the kids, but I’m also connecting with the families,” said Martin.
About a year ago, she says she realized that she was going to turn 64 this year – that date arrived in February – and decided that 2020 would be the time she hung up her teaching hat. Despite COVID-19 throwing her final year for a loop and taking her lessons out of the classroom to the online world, she knew she was going to enjoy every last minute of her final days with the kids she has grown to love.
She says it has “really been an experience” to finish off her career doing her classes over Zoom, but the experience has been extremely fun and rewarding as she has been able to see kids and parents work together as they complete activities and science experiments together.
Starting in April, Martin transitioned her class to Zoom calls, where she would do different things each week to help kids and parents work and learn together. Themes like science experiments, going out into nature and even pets helped the kids who were missing their friends connect in new ways while furthering their education.
Through her time there, she has seen much change come to the way the school operates. She says things like technology have evolved the way they learn as she has been using iPads for the past few years to show parents how kids are learning in the classroom. Other changes include moving away from plastic toys, instead opting to give kids a bin of more natural items to build. Even the language they use has changed, moving away from praising kids to forms of encouragement and listening.
Kids have come and gone, moving on through their lives towards big and promising futures. But one thing which has always remained the same is the constant joy that comes from working with a new batch of youngsters who are always more than happy to learn and greet her with a smiling face each and every day. This, in addition to connecting with parents are just some of the things she will miss most once she officially enters retirement next week.
“I’ll miss the kids, the contact with the kids, (and) I’ll miss the parents as well,” added Martin. “Just their little smiles and watching them grow – especially if I’ve had them for two years… it is amazing what happens in that time. I probably will miss the routine of having to get up and get going in the morning and you know, just connections with people in general.”
Martin says she doesn’t have any plans set once her retirement is official, but she will probably do some supply work for the school. She also plans on enjoying time with her friends playing cards in the afternoons, enjoying walks, and taking on work within her church community.