The important thing about the Gidley School

Mar 1, 2017

Dartmouth held a memorial for the to-be-demolished Gidley School on February 13. The following is a speech given at the event by former Gidley teacher, Kathy Garth.

It was a Friday, a few days before the beginning of school in September 1980. I was at the DeMello School preparing to sub for a teacher who was on maternity leave. About noon, I received a call from John Fletcher, telling me that my assignment had been changed and I would be going to Gidley instead to take over a second grade class for a teacher who was too ill to return to school. The next day John arrived at my home with a stack of books and the sad news that the teacher, Ruth Federman, has passed away.

And, so began my 23-year career as a Gidley School teacher. I remember the first time I walked into the building. I was greeted by friendly staff and knew immediately that it was going to be a happy place to teach.

So, when the call came out for people to submit their recollections of Gidley, I thought about all of the memories I had there and knew that I would need a 25-page document to record all of them. So, I harkened back to a teaching strategy many of us used to enable our students to capture what they knew about a subject. It was taken from a book entitled, "The Important Thing."

* * * * *

The important thing about the Gidley School is that within her walls are treasured memories which all of us will keep in our hearts forever.

She is the Queen of Tucker Road, and stands stately, even today, as a tribute to education and children in Dartmouth. She may be empty and closed, but our collective eyes turn to look at her whenever we drive by.

She was a welcome home to scores of happy students, excellent teachers, awesome staff, wonderful parents, and supportive administrators.

She may be only brick and mortar, but the community of people who graced her classrooms and hallways loved her dearly.

She was loved because of the comforting odor of chalk dust and heat… at least, before white boards and smart boards, of course.

She was loved because her classroom doors were always open, sending the sound of teaching and learning throughout the entire building.

She was loved because of the friendship fostered within her walls, friendships which have lasted a lifetime.

She was loved by the many now adults who proudly say, “I went to school at Gidley”. She was loved also by the unending line of teachers who say with joy, “I taught at the Gidley School”.

She welcomed field days, music concerts, geography fairs, wax museums, guest reader weeks, parents cooking latkes, students’ art work hanging in the hallways, daily messages from the office, an occasional pet, and one particular principal who dressed as a bumblebee on Halloween.

[Here, Dr. John Fletcher yelled "Not me!" from the audience.]

She had a joyous environment which made teaching seem easy and natural.

She was a venue for celebrations for her community in the good times, and was a haven of comfort in the sad times.

She welcomed me in 1980 to teach there. I shall forever be grateful for the time I spent there, the students I had the privilege to teach there, and the wonderful friends I made there.

She will be missed.

BUT, the important thing about the Gidley School is that within her walls are treasured memories which all of us will keep in our hearts forever!

Farewell, dear Lady.

Kathy Garth can be reached at Community members will further remember the Gidley School at the Russells Mills Schoolhouse on April 9, at 6:30 p.m. The event, "Remembering Gidley School," will be hosted by the Dartmouth Historical and Arts Society.