By ROBYN BRISTOW
Linda Harris says there is not a day that she has woken up and not wanted to go to school.
But after 40 years she is bidding farewell to Leithfield School.
Linda, who has been a teacher aide, receptionist, camp mum, and comforter for kids and parents, is retiring to “take one day at a time”.
“Every day I have wanted to come to school. Every day has been different. There is always something positive at the end of each day. It has been a fun time,” she says.
There have been only four principals during her 40 years and she has worn many hats during her fulltime work at the school.
“It’s been pretty incredible. I have been so lucky. It is like one big happy family.
“I am mum away from home for kids, some who get a couple of cuddles every day. They are special little kids. A lot are not that wee, but they enjoy a bit of loving.
“Its not just the kids, but parents too,” says Linda, who still has a special friendship with one pupil whom she worked with from the age of 6 to 14 during her 25 years as a teacher aide.
“We still keep in touch and she is now 32,” says Linda, who recalls fondly many of those she spent one-on-one time with.
“It is special and rewarding work.”
The school has grown from two teachers and 20 pupils when Linda started, to up to 17 staff. It now has a roll of 131.
Linda recalls wonderful school trips, lots of school camps, and the children writing a song for the Queen in the 1990s, Sing out Kiwi, and going to Christchurch to sing it for her.
They also saw United States President Bill Clinton during a visit to the Antarctic Centre, and were intrigued by the snipers on the roof keeping him safe.
Swimming carnivals, family picnics, horse-and-cart rides “which you can’t do any longer”, and Friday’s morning teas which staff took turns to cater, are remembered fondly by Linda.
The school landscape has changed from large pines, from which magpies roosted and swooped on children as they rode to school, to a food forest and garden.
Linda recalls the magpies being stalked with a .22 rifle to prevent attacks on children, who did not always wear helmets back in the day.
“They have been happy years. I am too old now. I am like a nana to many of the pupils.
“It is time to hang up my school bag and retire to my Waipara home.
“It has all been worth it. Small schools are special and personal.”
Linda says she will be available to help anyone in need from the school community.
She was farewelled at an afternoon tea.