After 41 years of teaching at Armstrong Elementary School, including helping fundraise for an addition to the library and gym in 1971, retired teacher Helen Sidney continues her tradition of serving as she has now donated $100,000 to help transform the school’s library into a modern learning commons.
The donation comes just in time to celebrate the school’s 100th birthday in September.
With COVID protocols in place a small, but special ceremony was held on April 29 at the school to thank her. Although there were only a few people present they represented the deep roots of Helen’s involvement at the school. For example, Heather Ramsay the current AES kindergarten teacher was a student of Helen Sidney in Grade 1. She also was a teaching partner with Helen. Presenting on behalf of the students was Olivia Southworth, a current Grade 4 student whose grandmother was taught by Helen.
Helen said she decided to donate the money “while she was still around to enjoy it” but seriously, because her career as a teacher, and continuing to help the “kiddos”, is important to her. “It means so much to me to be able to give back a little bit for what they have given me,” she commented, as she spoke warmly about her years as a teacher at the school including her role as “tooth fairy” for all the youngsters losing their teeth at school.
Sidney, who will be turning 99 this year and is still very active including going for daily walks where she cleans up garbage along her route, added that it was good timing to be able to donate the funds just in time for the school’s upcoming 100th year of operation.
Principal Corrinne Langston commented the donation was really a beacon of light and hope during the pandemic. “Just knowing we have these wonderful, good things happening is fantastic,” she commented.
Teacher-Librarian Michelle Krumm thanked Helen and said she is honoured to undertake this transformative project to create a lasting legacy in Helen’s honour. “I know our students, staff, and community at large will benefit from the new learning commons and I hope it serves as an inspired space until the next centennial.”
Helen commented that she is glad to be able to give a little bit to help make things better for the students. “They get a happy place to be. That’s wonderful.”
Helen was presented with a bouquet from Tennile Lachmuth, the local Board of Education trustee, and a letter of thanks by Superintendent of Schools Peter Jory.
Student Olivia Southworth presented Sidney with a selection of large cards, each one individually designed by a class. “All the signatures of the students are there. I love it, I love it. There is a lot work in these cards, look at all this. They really did a marvelous job.”
A big surprise was in the card created by Heather Ramsey’s class as it had original printing work which Ramsey did in Sidney’s class in grade one. “What a standard she taught,” said Ramsey. “I have nice printing because of her.”
“I am overwhelmed. I just don’t know what to say,” said Sidney after all the accolades. She did share several stories about AES in the early years, including one where the mom of one of her students asked her son how his first day went and he told her the students were divided into two classes. The mom asked what the teachers names were and the Grade 1 student said: “Miss Rock and Miss Squirrel”. The teachers were actually herself (who she described as having a full head of red curly hair and her maiden name was Sperling) and Mina Stone. “We got quite the laugh,” she said.