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W.A. Day students, staff honour three retirees

W.A. Day school staff and students honoured retiring staff members Cheryl Chester, Melvin Jones and Maureen Chambers last week. The three have a combined 85 years of service in education.

Students and staff at W.A. Day school said farewell last week to three staff members who have dedicated a combined 85 years to the children of Fort Macleod.
Teacher Maureen Chambers, librarian Cheryl Chester and caretaker Melvin Jones were honoured June 24.
The retirees were presented with gifts and treated to lunch with their loved ones and staff and students.
Melvin Jones worked as caretaker at F.P. Walshe, G.R. Davis and W.A. Day schools in Fort Macleod for a total of 29 years.
“When I think of Mr. Jones, I think of the word caretaker,” said Richard Feller, former principal at G.R. Davis and W.A. Day and now director of learning services for Livingstone Range School Division. “Not a caretaker who just takes care of the building, but who also takes care of the people in the building.”
Jones worked for the railway and as a professional jockey in addition to being a caretaker.
“He’s an exciting guy,” Feller said. “He’s done a lot of things.”
Jones amazed staff and students for such antics as walking on his hands on the stairs or climbing in the rafters to retrieve badminton birds and balls stuck in the ceiling.
He will also be remembered for demonstrating a perfect front handspring for Feller’s phys-ed classes.
But it is Jones’ caring nature for which he will be most remembered.
Feller said there is a belief at W.A. Day school that every adult is responsible for every child in the building.
“Mr. Jones was always there when someone needed it,” Feller said. “I believe that individually and collectively that we have an opportunity to change someone’s day with every interaction.”
Jones had that ability, Feller said, simply by sharing his unique laugh. He made people feel valued and cared for in every interaction.
“Mr. Jones lives in the moment and is never too busy to support adults or children in our community,” Feller said.
Feller said Jones has an attitude and a mindset to choose kindness, humility and integrity.
“I don’t know whether you’re going to remember the specific lessons that you learned in class,” Feller told the students. “But I know that you’re going to remember those who cared about you, and Mr. Jones. being a head caretaker, certainly cares about all of us.”
Cheryl Chester spent 27 years working for Livingstone Range School Division, starting as an educational assistant at Ewelme colony school and W.A. Day school.
For the last 22 years Chester has worked as librarian for G.R. Davis and W.A. Day schools.
“One of Mrs. Chester’s favourite things to do as a librarian has always been helping children who didn’t like to read,” said Kate Cope, who with Leanne Feller worked 22 years with Chester.
Chester would find out what topics interested a student, find related books and later ask them to do her a favour by reading the book to find out if it would be a good fit for the school library.
“She loved seeing their eyes light up and their heart light up because they loved the book,” Cope said.
Feller said a favourite memory is Chester setting goals for the food drive collection which, if met, would require staff members to perform a silly task at a school assembly.
That resulted in such antics as a teacher dying her hair purple and another painting his fingernails.
“The best one ever was when our principal had to wear a dress, a wig and makeup to work for the whole day,” Feller said.
Cope will remember Chester for her kindness and reaching out to a child who might be having a bad day.
“Mrs. Chester has a soft spot as big as the learning commons and always made the library a safe and caring place to be,” Cope said.
Chester has been supportive of the Leader in Me and Seven Habits program since it was introduced 13 years ago at the school.  (Learn more about the Leader in Me program and how it helps students HERE)
Chester lives the Seven Habits, finds connection in the literature she shares and considers everyone at the school family.
“Mrs. Chester is one of the strongest women I know,” Feller said. “And she’ll tell you she has used the Seven Habits in her life when things weren’t always easy.”
Staff and students will miss Chester for her kindness, her smile and her humour.
Maureen Chambers grew up in Fort Macleod, spending summers as a lifeguard at the outdoor pool and winters on the ski patrol at Castle Mountain.
“She travelled the world and had some great adventures skiing on some world-class ski hills,” teacher Patty McNally said.
Chambers graduated from the University of Lethbridge in 1982 with a Bachelor of Education and worked as a substitute teacher for a few years.
From 1995-’97 Chambers taught at a private school on a ranch near Waterton Lakes National Park.
She also taught at Granum colony school, Willow Creek Composite high school in Claresholm and at Granum school.
In 2010 Chambers joined the staff at G.R. Davis and W.A. Day schools teaching Grade 4 and music.
“On a personal note, I count myself one of the lucky ones who has been given the opportunity to teach so closely alongside Ms. Chambers,” McNally said.”I have been in awe of Maureen.”
A passion for students, a sense of humour, generosity and a giving nature are attributes possessed by Chambers.
“Ms. Chambers is the most caring, compassionate person I know,” teacher Andrew Walmsley said. “She cares deeply for all the staff in our school but her real passion is for all of you guys, the kids who walk through our doors every day.”
“She does everything she can to make sure every student has the best day they can when they get here.”
Walmsley said every student knows they can go to Ms. Chambers if they need a hug or a kind word, or just someone to listen to them.

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