When school resumes in September at Scotsburn Elementary School, it will be missing a piece of its heart and soul.
Glenna Ripley has retired.
The Durham Hill Road resident has been a fixture at the school for almost three decades. She first began as the Home and School president, then went to volunteer there 27 years ago — when the school was just in its second year — and when she retired she was welcoming the children of those students she first encountered.
“I started in 1990 as a volunteer in the computer room,” Ripley said. At that time her son, Michael, was a 10-year old student.
Since then, she has volunteered in many capacities, ending her time as the cafeteria worker, making sure the students were served a tasty, nutritious meal — from someone who truly cared about them. All the while she had a bright word of encouragement and a smile on her face and in her heart.
Her friend and fellow volunteer Christine MacKenzie paid tribute to Ripley at a community celebration held recently in her honour.
“Many refer to her as the grandmother of the school, someone who is always there with a smile and never lets a kid go hungry or cold. She went outside with the kids every day, even when it was really cold, and she always checked the playground for safety. She was often the first to open the door in the morning. It’s her recipes that have gotten us through so many great events at the school including, I think, for the punch here tonight!” MacKenzie said.
Alexander Johnson worked with Ripley at the school for 16 or 17 years and developed a deep affection and respect for her.
“She was always ready to help the children,” he said. “She always took care of everybody.”
Johnson, who is currently a custodian working at West Pictou Consolidated School, served as a playground supervisor with Ripley.
“I always looked forward to our lunch break outside with the kids,” he recalled.
“This school is really losing someone special and she leaves big shoes to fill.”
Ripley could always be counted on to show school spirit by being the first to dress for special occasions like Halloween and Christmas, produce Band-aids for boo-boos and bake cookies. She has flipped virtually hundreds of pancakes for breakfasts and roasted more turkeys than she could ever count for dinners. And on top of all of that, she managed to secure lots of extra mittens, hats, scarves, socks, boots and snowpants for the children who had none.
Her attention does not end at the school. She can also be found volunteering at Race on the River as a marshal with her friend, Christine MacKenzie, and in the broader community.
In addition to the hundreds of students she helped nurture and watched grow, Ripley also watched her six grandchildren grow up in the school. Natalie and Emilie, Macaela, Madison, Katelyn and Kristina all benefited from having their grandmother’s attention both in school and after school.
MacKenzie — who has had the pleasure of having her three children attend school under Ripley’s caring watch — said Ripley’s family describes their mother as “someone who has put all of herself into her job” and said that it was hard for her to make the decision to leave.
Ripley does not dispute that. “I’ve been through six principals at that school and every one of them and the students was amazing,” she praised. “I will really miss them. I will never forget being made to feel very welcome.”
MacKenzie noted, “Glenna did far more than was ever in her job description. She understands that one of the key secrets in life is a positive attitude of gratitude.”
Glenna Ripley cuts the cake made for her at a community celebration honouring her for her retirement from Scotsburn Elementary School. (Submitted photo)