Evacuated English teacher's first thoughts are for her students

Maria Donovan

Maria Donovan

May16, 2016

EDMONTON - Maria Donovan's face broke into a delighted smile as she called out, "It's so good to see you and that you are safe."

Donovan is the Grade 9 English, religion and options teacher at Fort McMurray's Holy Trinity Catholic High School.

Overjoyed to see her students, she called out to them and their parents at the reception following the May 8 afternoon Mass at Edmonton's Resurrection Church.

"I felt so lonely," Donovan said to a parent. "I'm so happy to see you."

The McMurray fire was literally nipping at the teacher's heels until a four prop water bomber doused a nearby dwelling.

She had stayed with her students until their parents picked them up and then travelled down the grid-locked highway to a friend's house in Leduc. "I love my kids."

So what did she pack? "Only my good clothes, my teaching clothes."

With all the stress and destruction, Donovan's thoughts were still with her students. "I emailed all my kids and told them to keep a journal. That might help them decompress."

To make sure the youth keep track of their thoughts in their journals, Donovan also emailed their parents.

"I have a journal, . . . but I haven't written in it yet," she said.

A native of New Brunswick, Donovan knew that on Mother's Day her mother would be worried about her. So she took a selfie and sent it to her mother. "I told her not to listen to the news or watch TV."

Her caring spirit makes her restless. "I feel like I need something to do, that I want to go back and help."

Donovan does not know if she will see the year out with her students or whether she will go home to New Brunswick and be with her family. For the moment though, she is just happy to know that her school and students are OK.