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Longtime teachers and friends retire this December

Cathy Crawford, left, and Debbie Johnson Gaunt sit in Johnson Gaunt’s kindergarten classroom at Lochside elementary school on Royal Oak Drive. The two will retire this month after teaching at the school for 25 years. - Don Denton/News staff
Cathy Crawford, left, and Debbie Johnson Gaunt sit in Johnson Gaunt’s kindergarten classroom at Lochside elementary school on Royal Oak Drive. The two will retire this month after teaching at the school for 25 years.
— image credit: Don Denton/News staff

Longtime Lochside elementary school teachers Cathy Crawford and Debbie Johnson Gaunt, both 61, retire this month after more than a quarter century of service to the school.

While Crawford and Johnson Gaunt began their careers in 1975 and 1969, respectively, they both moved to Lochside in 1986. It was an era when communication with parents wasn’t what it is today and when a cow from nearby farmland sometimes wandered up to the school entrance.

“It’s our 26th year and things have changed,” said Crawford, who has taught Grades 2 through 4. “We’ve gone from blackboards to whiteboards to smartboards.”

A bigger change, Crawford explained, has less to do with technology.

“Classrooms are kinder now,” she said, attributing the change to an increased focus on social responsibility in schools.

For Johnson Gaunt, primarily a kindergarten teacher, the biggest change she’s seen is better communication between parents and teachers.

Johnson Gaunt estimates she has taught 2,000 students and is known for her ability to remember just about all of them.

“It’s so much fun to run into kids in the community,” she said, referring to former students as her babies.

Crawford is most proud of her efforts to promote kids’ health and orchestrate school-wide musical productions.

The two educators also have much in common, including masters degrees in education from Gonzaga University, which they worked together to obtain in 2005.

“They’re just really consistent and conscientious teachers who really care with their whole hearts for all of the students,” said principal Joe Grewal. “They definitely have enjoyed being in the classroom and teaching all these years.

“They really got to know families and other members of the community,” Grewal added.

“Now they’re teaching the children of the children that they taught.”

Tamara Goosney was a 24-year-old single mother with her eldest child in Johnson Gaunt’s kindergarten class when she first experienced the teacher’s accepting and encouraging nature.

“She’s an amazing woman – like a second mom to me,” Goosney said.

“Even though I was in my youth and often my two feet were in my mouth at the same time, she never made me feel inadequate as a mom.

“She was very supportive to me and holds a special place in our lives as a family.”

Johnson Gaunt’s daughter, Lisa Alexander, is a teacher on call in the Saanich School District – a career decision due in large part to her mother’s influence.

“She’s been a role model to me, taught kindness and patience and to love others,” Alexander said.

“She’s given me a passion for teaching.”

Lochside elementary, 1145 Royal Oak. Dr., is hosting a goodbye assembly open to the public for Crawford and Johnson Gaunt at 1:30 p.m. on Dec. 15

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