Crossroads teacher retires

Robin McCormick

After 30 years of teaching, Caren Fagerdahl will not be returning to Crossroads School in Devlin this fall to begin the 2010/11 school year.
Rather, she and her husband will be leaving for Peterborough to visit their daughter, Erika, and family.
But the trip only starts there. It will continue on to Montreal, Quebec City, and the Maritimes, including Newfoundland and Prince Edward Island.
Many things certainly have taken place since Caren began her teaching career here in Rainy River District.
In 1980, she began at Sixth Street School in Fort Frances. She taught Grades 3 and 4, and remembers being “scared to death” working with children this young.
Caren had graduated in 1976 from Scholastica in Duluth. She lived in Thunder Bay after graduating but, as the same story goes today, there were no teaching jobs available at the time, so Caren worked in an old folks home and for the Glidden Company as a decorator consultant.
She did later teach junior high at Westmount School in Thunder Bay.
In 1983, Caren was encouraged by Barb Helt to return to school to get her primary qualifications.
She was off to Toronto and soon returned to Fort Frances, teaching the SK class at Alexander McKenzie.
Caren’s career then took her to Burriss School in 1991. At that point, full-time kindergarten had started and she wanted to see what it was like.
Caren remembers being against full-day kindergarten, believing it wasn’t best for the students.
She taught at Burriss from 1991-95, then entered the doors at the new Crossroads School.
When asked about any special memories of the old Burriss School, which burned down in late July, Caren gave a chuckle as she replied, “The mice.”
She recalled preparing for an art project. As she pulled stuffing out of a bag, a moose joined her.
As Caren squealed in panic, Kathy DeGagne, who was in another classroom, shouted, “Throw it outside,” as if this was a daily occurrence—and maybe it was.
Caren also laughed about the gym floor and how it was heaved, but made for great rides on tummy boards for the kids.
She also talked about the wonderful Christmas concerts at Burriss and the help from Freeda Carmody to make the concerts an event enjoyed by the whole school, as well as parents, grandparents, and area residents.
Caren said the staff at Crossroads was very close—like a family away from home. Liz Donaldson’s name also came up often as a mentor and friend during Caren’s days at Burriss.
Caren taught many years as a half-time teacher, which worked out great as she was raising David and Erika.
In 1997, she began teaching full-time at Crossroads and did so until her retirement this past June. Many years she taught Grades 2 and 3—often a split class.
In 2006, Caren’s teaching career took a change after she was trained by Janet Maxwell in the “Reading Recovery” program, which she described as an excellent program that helps children who are at risk of not being able to read.
Caren could not share enough positive comments about this reading program, and is pleased that a number of other teachers have been similarly trained by Maxwell.
When asked her thoughts about the recent EQAO testing for Grades 3, 6, and 9, Caren revealed she is definitely against it.
She believes it is very stressful to children, and that the testing only gives a snapshot of what the student can do.
She also believes the money put into the testing could be better spent on training teachers and reducing class sizes.
Caren’s memories of Crossroads include the parental and community support.
She said if a note went home for help, you were sure to get a response back to assist in whatever you needed.
Many, many dads filled the spaces needed for help.
To end her teaching days, Caren was honoured with a surprise party at her home on June 19.
“It really, really was a surprise,” she said.
About 50 people turned out, with her being presented with a camera (one of her many hobbies she plans to take up), many other gifts, and tributes.
In talking with Caren, it was so easy to see and feel she loved her teaching days—and will cherish her memories forever.
But she is equally excited about her up and coming days, and isn’t that what life is all about!