Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of November 6, 2000
St. Gerard's is full of spirit
Northside School marks 50th Anniversary
By ANH HOANG
WCR Staff Writer
About two years ago St. Gerard School was slated for closure. Today, it's celebrating its 50th anniversary.
"There is such a wonderful spirit in this school," said Sister Ada Toner, principal from 1968 to 1978. "The spirit is still there."
The spirit thrives among the dozen or so parents who volunteer at the school on a regular basis. The spirit is in the smiles and hugs Toner gets when she visits the school, from the students, staff and parents, many of whom were former students. The spirit is in the community atmosphere of the school and its small size, about 175 students.
"(Parents) think of this as a support for them," said principal Joanne Ritcey-Devaney. "It's a great community for them."
Founded by the Sisters of Charity of the Immaculate Conception, St. Gerard had humble beginnings. It opened in September 1950 in two Army huts on the grounds of St. Alphonsus School. Two months later, the huts were moved to the school's present site, just off Yellowhead Trail and 82nd Street.
In that first year, there were 67 students. The school grew to include a junior high school, which has since been closed.
Toner loved teaching at St. Gerard because she felt the "kids were real."
"They had very little, some of them felt kind of inferior . . . like they weren't as good as anyone else."
Toner would come to school early to put on a pot of porridge for the kids who didn't have breakfast at home. But to make the students who had no breakfast feel more comfortable, Toner invited everyone to the "breakfast club" so that kids felt they wanted to come not because they needed to.
In her first year, Toner also found out that 29 of her Grades 4, 5 and 6 students couldn't read. So she and the kids tore their reading books apart, because "if they couldn't read, having those books meant they were failures. I didn't want them to feel that way."
She taught those students to read through practice and games. She would put little notes up around the room. One read, "You can go to the cupboard and get an M&M."
"(St. Gerard) was the happiest experience of my teaching career," she said.
After 50 years, St. Gerard is full of memories and traditions. There were hot dog days and the paper drive, a very successful fundraiser. The paper drive brought in a lot of money, but it came to an end when the room where the newspapers were stored caught fire.
St. Gerard celebrates its golden anniversary with a luncheon, time capsule, unveiling of a new school sign and a tea and open house, Nov. 3 and 4. For more information call the school at 474-5208.