After 35 years as a primary school teacher, Linda Nonen is packing up her boxes for the last time and retiring from Willows Elementary School.
Nonen, who taught at Monterey for 30 years before transferring to Willows in 2007, is throwing an informal gathering on Wednesday (June 20) to celebrate her long-time teaching career. All former and present students, parents, and colleagues are invited.
“It’s been quite a journey, one that I would not trade for the world,” says Nonen, who formerly taught under the names of Walker and Stone.
As a young girl, Nonen recalls lining up her dolls and teddy bears and playing teacher.
“I knew from the time that I was a little girl that I wanted to be a teacher,” she says, adding that her mother, grandmother and great-grandmother were all teachers.
“Going to work’s always been a pleasure and I’ve just never really questioned that it’s what I wanted to do.”
Nonen was first hired at Monterey, when it was an elementary school, as a Grade 1 teacher in 1977. She taught a variety of grades from Kindergarten to Grade 3, and even a Grade 6/7 science class.
She also taught choir and coached the school’s swim club throughout her years at Monterey.
“Monterey was just an amazing place to teach. … It was such a family, a lot of us stayed there for a very long time,” she says. “We had this amazing connection between everyone.”
A crowning moment for Nonen was when she was presented with a “Miss Monterey” sash during her 30th year of teaching.
When Nonen started at Monterey, she was replacing a teacher who had been there for 27 years, Nonen explains.
“They kept telling me, ‘You have big shoes to fill and a hard act to follow,’” she says. “Little did I know I’d end up… (with the title of) Miss Monterey.”
After Monterey was transformed into a middle school, Nonen left for Willows.
“I was very nervous about going to (teach at) a new school because I’d been in that one place for all those years,” she says.
But like the staff at Monterey, her colleagues, students and parents at Willows were quick to embrace her.
“I just felt totally at home at Willows as well,” she says, adding that she has children who come by her classroom for after school visits and hugs almost on a daily basis.
It’s that feeling of family that Nonen will miss the most, she says.
“The community in Oak Bay is just so supportive and so lovely that a lot of the parents (of my students) have become good friends as well, and now the students that I had have become friends.”
Colin Scott-Moncrieff, a high-school teacher in Sooke, was a student in Nonen’s first class 35 years ago. His six-year-old son, Fraser, is in Nonen’s last class.
“She was amazing for me as a kid, I’ll always remember her (as a teacher) and I don’t think my son will forget her either,” he says. “She’s very nurturing… and kind and really reaches out to the kids.”
Scott-Moncrieff recalls lining up in the cloakroom on Friday afternoons, waiting for hugs from Nonen, he says.
“She’s got to be the warmest, kindest, most receptive person that you could possibly have (as a teacher).”
Deciding to retire was difficult and bittersweet, Nonen says, but she hopes it will lead her to other paths.
“I know that as I leave the school, I’m not finished,” she says. “My journey is not done. I know that there’s something else – I’m not quite sure what it looks like now, but I want to continue to work with children and help children.”
Nonen’s retirement party will be held June 20, from 4 to 7 p.m., at the Sports View Lounge in the Oak Bay Recreation Centre on Bee Street.
To add a comment to a memory book being made for Nonen, email Annette at email@example.com, or Jacqueline at firstname.lastname@example.org.